A group of students from a historically black university have filed a lawsuit alleging a southeast Texas county is suppressing the voting rights of its black residents. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Houston on Monday, five Prairie View A&M University students allege Waller County election officials are violating the civil rights of black students and residents in Prairie View — which is predominantly African-American — by not providing any early voting locations on campus or anywhere in the city during the first week of early voting, which started Monday. In the second week of early voting, the county is providing five days in Prairie View, but two of them are off-campus and at a site that is not easily accessible to many students who lack transportation, according to the lawsuit.
Prairie View is located about 50 miles northwest of Houston. The historically black university, which has about 8,400 full and part-time students, represents a significant voting bloc in Waller County.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the students, says that by comparison, in the nearby majority-white city of Waller, voters have two locations to vote during the first week and overall 11 days of early voting. The group says the county’s actions violate the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
“Since at least the early 1970s, Waller County has consistently tried to limit the political power of black voters in the city of Prairie View and at Prairie View A&M specifically by undermining their right to vote,” said Leah Aden, the legal defense fund’s deputy director of litigation.