Another controversy in Prairie View as the Waller County Commissioners voted along racial and partisan lines to reject a second voting location on the PVAM campus.
The 3-to-2 vote surprised minority leaders who thought county Judge Owen Ralston, a white Republican, would be willing to join with the court's two Democrats, both black, to approve the voting location on the mostly minority campus.
The Commissioners Court recently approved the use of the county's community center at the south edge of the campus to serve as the lone polling place for both the university and the small, mostly black town that adjoins it.
Proponents of the central campus site said the community building, five minutes by foot from the center of campus, is inconvenient and intimidating to student voters.
However, Ralston countered that the Memorial Student Center, proposed by minority and student leaders for the second voting site, is too noisy and crowded to meet legal security requirements for voting.
"There's not a place in that building that meets the election code," he said. "We need to find a better place if there's to be voting on the campus."
Ralston then voted with Republicans Frank Pokluda, Precinct 2 commissioner, and Louis Canales, Precinct 4 commissioner, to kill the central campus polling site. Both commissioners are white.
Supporting the site were Precinct 1 Commissioner Leroy Singleton and Precinct 3 Commissioner Milton Whiting.
Prairie View Mayor Frank Jackson, who urged commissioners to approve the second polling place in "the spirit of democracy," called the surprise outcome "a double-cross." He said the university administration had agreed to take steps to close off part of the student center to ensure voters' privacy.
"We came here thinking this had all been worked out," he said. "Then they come up with this."
State Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, called the court's decision "pure racist" and vowed to complain to the Texas secretary of state and the U.S. Justice Department.
The Justice Department has overseen Waller County elections for years, and the department launched a civil rights investigation related to student-voting issues last year.