Vot­ing hur­dle cleared for some stu­dents

Houston Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Jasper Scherer

The Texas Sec­re­tary of State an­nounces that Prairie View A&M Univer­sity stu­dents will not have to fill out ad­di­tional reg­is­tra­tion pa­per­work be­fore cast­ing their bal­lots.

Prairie View A&M Univer­sity stu­dents will not have to fill out ad­di­tional reg­is­tra­tion pa­per­work be­fore cast­ing their bal­lots, a move that al­lays the con­cerns of Democrats who wor­ried long lines would dis­suade stu­dents from vot­ing.

The news, an­nounced in a joint state­ment Fri­day by Texas Sec­re­tary of State Rolando Pab­los, Waller County, the lo­cal par­ties and Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­date Mike Siegel, comes af­ter con­fu­sion on Prairie View A&M’s cam­pus over stu­dent res­i­dents who reg­is­tered un­der ad­dresses that placed them in a dif­fer­ent precinct.

Of­fi­cials said they would al­low those stu­dents to vote at the on-cam­pus precinct, but would re­quire them to fill out a state­ment of res­i­dence form be­fore cast­ing a bal­lot. Siegel and other lo­cal Democrats wor­ried the re­quire­ment would de­press turnout.

The state­ment reads: “It has been com­mu­ni­cated and con­firmed that the Waller County plan en­sures, as it was al­ways in­tended to do, that all stu­dents residing on cam­pus who are reg­is­tered to vote in the county will be able to cast their bal­lots at the Precinct 309 polling lo­ca­tion on cam­pus, and that no stu­dents will be im­peded, ham­pered, or oth­er­wise de­layed in ex­er­cis­ing their con­sti­tu­tional right to cast a bal­lot in the up­com­ing Gen­eral Elec­tion.”

The state­ment came out of a con­fer­ence con­vened by Pab­los, which spurred a dis­cus­sion that Pab­los said

was “pro­duc­tive” and pro­vided par­ties to the call with “am­ple op­por­tu­nity to con­tribute their points of view.”

Mean­while, the county will pro­vide ad­di­tional poll work­ers to help stu­dents up­date their ad­dress for fu­ture elec­tions af­ter vot­ing, County Judge Trey Duhon said in a state­ment.

Siegel in a state­ment thanked those who “worked to­gether to make sure Prairie View stu­dents can vote with­out hin­drance.”

“The vote is the most fun­da­men­tal right in our democ­racy,” Siegel said. “We will con­tinue to work with stu­dents and com­mu­nity mem­bers to pre­vent any voter sup­pres­sion.”

The in­ci­dent orig­i­nates from a 2016 de­ci­sion by the county, univer­sity of­fi­cials and the lo­cal par­ties to al­low stu­dents to reg­is­ter un­der the univer­sity’s pri­mary ad­dress, 100 or 700 Univer­sity Drive. Of­fi­cials say the de­ci­sion was in­tended to al­low stu­dents to re­ceive their voter reg­is­tra­tion cards, as they do not have in­di­vid­ual mail boxes.

County of­fi­cials dis­cov­ered in the March pri­mary that one of the ad­dresses — which is used by the cam­pus book­store — was lo­cated in Precinct 310, the Prairie View City Hall precinct. They even­tu­ally de­cided to al­low stu­dents to vote at the wrong precinct af­ter fill­ing out a state­ment of res­i­dence form.

Prairie View A&M, whose stu­dent body is about 80 per­cent black, has a fraught his­tory with the county over voter reg­is­tra­tion is­sues, in­clud­ing a 1979 case in­volv­ing the vot­ing rights of stu­dents that reached the Supreme Court. The prior in­ci­dents caused alarm among Siegel and some lo­cal Democrats, though Duhon and other county of­fi­cials in­sist they never in­tended to pre­vent stu­dents from vot­ing.

Elec­tions Ad­min­is­tra­tor Christy Ea­son, who served in a dif­fer­ent role at the time, said in a state­ment Fri­day that “there was never any ill in­tent be­hind the er­ror what­so­ever.”

“I don’t think it ever crossed any­one’s mind, in­clud­ing the univer­sity, that the univer­sity’s main ad­dress was not ac­tu­ally phys­i­cally on cam­pus,” Ea­son said.

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