In fall 2018, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Norton Rose Fulbright filed a lawsuit against Waller County on behalf of Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) student voters, alleging that the county discriminated against them by adopting and maintaining an early voting schedule for the November 2018 election that limited their access to early voting. Since 2018, Waller has refused to provide on-campus early voting at PVAMU. LDF brought claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, alleging that Waller County had intentionally discriminated against Black PVAMU students on the basis of race, in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and on the intersecting bases of race and age, in violation of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments combined.
Waller County is an exurban county on the northeastern border of Harris County, Texas which comprises both suburban and rural areas. The County’s Citizen Voting-Age Population (CVAP) is majority white. One of the largest cities in Waller County is Prairie View, the population of which is about 80 percent Black. Prairie View is anchored by Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), a Historically Black University with over 9,000 students. Prairie View is demographically unique in Waller County by virtue of its high concentration of young, Black residents. There are no other universities or colleges anywhere in the County, and no other area has as high a percentage of Black residents of any age as the City of Prairie View. Except for officials elected from the majority-Black Precinct 3, which contains Prairie View, every elected official in Waller County is white.
Founded in 1876, PVAMU is a historically Black university with over 8,000 students. Waller County has targeted PVAMU for decades by enacting restrictive and unconstitutional voting measures, dating back to when Americans 18 years and older won the right to vote in 1971. Since then, the school’s predominantly Black student population has been a political force in the majority-white Waller County. Before 1971, Waller County had almost no Black voters. But with the ratification of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment in 1971, which gave the vote to all Americans eighteen years or older, the mostly Black student population at Prairie View A&M became and remains a significant political force in Waller County. Almost immediately, county officials began deploying various unconstitutional and illegal tactics to limit students’ voting rights, including restrictive registration requirements, arbitrary voter challenges, and, just in the last few years, baseless changes in Black students’ access to early voting and polling locations.
Read the 2018 lawsuit here
On July 16 2020, the Southern District Court of Texas ruled that Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) students and a PVAMU student-organization will have their day in court to demonstrate why Waller County’s November 2018 early voting schedule violated the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
“For decades, Prairie View A&M student voters have been combating the voter suppression tactics used by Waller County, most recently through Waller’s attempt to limit PVAMU students’ access to early voting. Despite Prairie View A&M students being some of the highest users of early voting in the county, making up one-third of the county’s registered voting population, and lacking access to modes of transportation, Waller County continues to limit their access to early voting. This court decision guarantees that the brilliant and courageous PVAMU students that LDF proudly represents can fully present their case in court this September.”
Read the court’s decision here.
Trial was held remotely via Zoom from September 28, 2020 through October 15, 2020. At the conclusion of trial, the Court ordered the parties to meet to discuss the potential for settlement and submit a joint status report on the potential for settlement by November 16, 2020. The Court also ordered the parties to file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law by December 11, 2020. Subsequently, due to delays in the availability of trial transcripts, the Court extended this filing deadline to March 22, 2021, which the Court granted. Due to the February snowstorm in Texas, the Court granted Defendants’ motion to extend this filing deadline to March 29, 2021.
On March 29, 2021, Plaintiffs filed their Proposed Post-Trial Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Post-Trial Memorandum of Law. The next day, Defendants filed their Proposed Post-Trial Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Post-Trial Memorandum of Law, and an unopposed motion for leave to late-file these briefs, which the Court granted.