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Prairie View A&M Students Combat Voter Suppression By Marching To Early Voting Site

Lucio Vasquez for Texas Public Radio
Alanna Gaskin, president of Prairie View A&M's student government association, leads a student march to the Waller County Community Center to participate in early voting.

With early voting beginning this week, more than 100 students at Prairie View A&M took the opportunity to shine a light on voter suppression in their community.

The students marched for nearly a mile Wednesday afternoon to take part in early voting, while playing music along the journey to help take their mind off of the extreme Texas heat. They were joined by the university's president, Ruth Simmons, as well as former PVAMU student and current city councilman Xante Wallace, who spoke about the importance of the march.

“Everybody just wants to make sure that their voice is heard… That the people know we’re gonna come out as students,” Wallace said.

After 20 minutes, they finally arrived at the Waller County Community Center, which is the only early voting site in the city.

Waller County has been accused of actively suppressing the voting rights of students at the historically Black college for years, which led to a lawsuit being filed in 2018. Jayla Allen, now a Prairie View Alumni, is a plaintiff in the case.

“We had no early voting whatsoever (during) the first week of early voting,” she recalled. “So, we went to commissioners court and asked for more days.”

After the county denied their request, Allen and the rest of the student leaders began contacting people who could potentially help. Two days later, the NAACP legal defense and educational fund had reached out and told them they would accept the case.

The trial officially began about two weeks ago and is expected to conclude this week. With the topic of voter suppression at the forefront of this presidential election, there seems to be hope among students that the status quo will change.

Alanna Gaskin is the president of the Student Government Association at Prairie View A&M and one of the organizers of the student march. The Student Government Association has been actively fighting voter suppression by registering students to vote and getting them to the polls. Gaskin is among many students who believe change is on the horizon.

“I would say that things are progressing and moving,” she said. “I know that our city council has been working hard to ensure that we still have the right to vote. I feel very optimistic about it, I feel like there is gonna bring a change from this case.”

When asked about the voter suppression allegations made towards the county, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon declined to comment.

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Lucio is a reporter and photojournalist currently studying media production at the University of Houston. He has previously worked as a news photographer for Houston Public Media, the NPR affiliate in Houston, Texas. His photography has appeared throughout several Texas-based NPR affiliates.