Students demand voting rights in Prairie View

HOUSTON – The Houston Chronicle reports that police in Waller County estimate about 2,000 people marched 7.3 miles on Feb. 19 from Prairie View A&M University to the Waller County Courthouse in Hempstead, Texas to demand the right to vote. Marchers included students, local leaders, civil rights activists and elected officials. They carried “Register to Vote” signs and displayed the slogan, “It is 2008 and we will vote” on black tee shirts. The march was planned for the first day of early voting.

Residents of the university were outraged that officials planned for only one poll in Waller County for early voting, maintaining this is a blatant attempt to suppress the vote of students who make up a significant portion of the eligible voters in the county.

Marchers complained that students at Prairie View A&M have had their voting rights suppressed for decades by Waller County.

Prairie View Mayor Frank Johnson said, “These are wonderful kids. They are making a statement, until they spoke up there was only one early voting place in the entire county. They spoke up but everyone is benefiting from what they are doing.”

Waller County officials were forced under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice to add three polling places for early voting. Originally the county planned to have six polling places before changing it to only one. The county has been notorious for Black voter suppression and has faced numerous lawsuits over the past 30 years. A Supreme Court decision as a result of a Prairie View protest over 30 years ago allows college students to register and vote in communities where they attend school, according to Judge DeWayne Charleston, Waller County Justice of the Peace, as quoted in .