Federal lawsuit filed against Waller County over early voting locations

It's homecoming week and most Prairie View A&M University students seem focused on that — most of them, but not all. Kyera Benjamin was focused on voting early and she accomplished that goal.

"It was all right," says Benjamin. "There wasn’t a line because this is Prairie View and for some strange reason, Prairie View students feel like they shouldn't vote."

That 'strange reason,' according to the NAACP, could be because the county doesn't want them to. That's why the organization filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of five students claiming that Waller County didn't provide a location on campus for the first week of early voting.

The lawsuit names Waller County Judge Trey Duhon among the defendants. Duhon says he was surprised to get slapped with the lawsuit. He adds that the county moved early voting off campus at the request of the Democratic Party to not interfere with homecoming activities.

"So we accommodated a request and we were quite surprised that we got sued in federal court on the fact that we accommodated that request," says Duhon. He also says the county since taken action to expand early voting on campus and expand early voting times on Sunday. 

Duhon explains that after meeting with the federal judge and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, part but not all of the suit has been dropped. He says that he expects that soon based on planned changes. 

Duhon also says he is well aware of the county's history of discrimination against students at the university, but says no one in the current county administration, including himself, were involved in that discrimination.

"The numbers tell the story about what’s at stake here," says Dr. Timothy Sams, the PVAMU vice president for student affairs. "There are roughly 60,000 people in Waller County and not all of them are registered voters. The Prairie View campus has 8,200 people and every one of them is a potential registered voter."

Sams adds that regardless of how the lawsuit plays out, it's not really over.

"We can be certain, based on the history of our student engagement, that they'll be right back at it until they enjoy unfettered access to voting," describes Sams.

But on Friday, that right seemed far from the minds of most students. It is homecoming week after all.