‘A sign of unity:’ Livingstone students line up to vote

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2017

SALISBURY — Shuttles and buses circled in front of the Rowan County Board of Elections office for two hours Wednesday, dropping off crowds of students eager to make their mark on the world — and on the ballot.

It’s been more than 10 years since Livingstone College began its tradition of going to the polls. Students said they’re proud of that heritage.

“To me, it’s a sign of unity,” said Terrell Richardson, Student Government Association president.

“It gives you a sense of pride and a sense of belonging,” said senior class President Diamond Bowe.

In past years, students have marched to the polls en mass. But since the Board of Elections has moved to West End Plaza, the school ferried students in shuttles painted with the school’s fierce Blue Bear mascot.

Usually, Richardson said, Livingstone observes a holistic time in the middle of the day, when students gather together. On Wednesday, students chose to forego that assembly in favor of voting.

“We want to make sure the voice of the minority is heard,” Richardson said.

While Richardson didn’t say whom he voted for, he did say he hopes the next Salisbury City Council will build a strong relationship with Livingstone and engage the campus more.

“Hopefully, there will be someone on Salisbury City Council who will represent us well and serve as our advocate,” he said.

While many Livingstone students come from outside Rowan County — or outside North Carolina — they call Salisbury home for the school year and want to have a say.

“We are here eight months out of the year, so our voices do matter,” student Jourdan Gaddie said.

Many students have changed their address to Livingstone and vote in local municipal elections. Others asked for absentee ballots to vote in elections in their hometowns.

The students were no less eager and passionate about voting in a municipal election than they had been in the 2016 presidential election, others said.

To Livingstone students, voting has a weighty history.

“Our ancestors fought for the right to vote, and knowing that people don’t take advantage of that is kind of disheartening,” Shardae Lamar said.

Just 18, Wednesday was Lamar’s first time casting a vote — and she chose to register and vote in North Carolina instead of her native South Carolina. Salisbury policies and the City Council can have a big impact on Livingstone students, she explained.

“It’s a good feeling to know that you get to choose who runs the city,” Lamar said.

For others, voting is a way to make sure their voice gets heard.

“I feel accomplished. I feel heard. I feel one in the number,” Bowe said.

According to Richardson, organizers hoped that roughly 300 of the school’s approximately 1,000 students would choose to vote Wednesday — whether they traveled by bus or personal car.

“It’s definitely an amazing experience. I feel like every school should have this opportunity,” Gaddie said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.