The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a response to Waller County’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that LDF brought on behalf of five Prairie A&M University (PVAMU) students who are demanding early voting opportunities like those that the County provides to its older, white residents elsewhere in the County. LDF contends that it has sufficiently alleged that Waller County in Texas has intentionally discriminated against Black and Latinx student voters by denying them opportunities to vote during the first week of early voting in November 2018—when voters elsewhere in the County and throughout Texas were already casting their ballots in a pivotal election with historically high turnout.
“This lawsuit is the most recent attempt by Waller County officials to evade their legal and moral obligation to make early voting as available to Black college students as all other voters in the County,” said LDF Deputy Director of Litigation Leah Aden. “It cannot be overlooked that Prairie View A&M in the City of Prairie View is mostly comprised of students of color. Yet, no other area in the County was denied early voting opportunities before the mid-term election like this group of students.”
“Black students at the university have been a target of voter suppression for decades,” added LDF Assistant Counsel Deuel Ross. “Courts, organizations like ours, and previously even the Department of Justice have stepped in to protect these students’ voting rights. We expect that to be the case with our lawsuit.”
Prairie View A&M, a historically Black university with over 8,000 students, has been a target of restrictive voting policies since the ratification of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment in 1971 gave the vote to all Americans 18 years and older. Since then, the school’s predominantly Black student body has been a significant political force in Waller County, a majority-white county.
LDF alleges that Waller County violated the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against young, Black and Latinx voters on account of race and age. Shortly before the November election, Waller County modestly expanded early voting in Prairie View in response to public pressure and LDF’s lawsuit filed just before the election. However, these minimal changes did not achieve anything close to parity, and failed to address the systemic problems that make it more difficult for students of color to participate in the county’s electoral processes in election after election.
The international law firm of Norton, Rose Fulbright joins LDF as co-counsel in support of this voting rights challenge. Read our full response to Waller County’s motion to dismiss here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.