Prairie View A&M University Permanent Voting Location Proposal & Observations Waller County, Texas Precinct 309

September 4, 2013

True the Vote 7232 Wynnwood Lane Houston, Texas 77008

Table of Contents
Background………………………………………………………………..2 Proposal…………………………………………………………………….2 Observation 1: Facilities Comparison…………………………...2 Observation 2: Population Trends………………………………..6 Observation 3: Precinct 309 Voter Turnout Trends…….….7 Observation 4: Litigation Risk Assessment…………………...8 Conclusion………………………………………………………………...9 Addendum………………………………………………………………..10

Texas Election Code Ann. Statutes
§ 43.031(a)……………3 § 43.034……………….3 § 43.034(b)…………..3 § 62.0115…………...…4 § 62.0111..................4 § 62.010……………….4 § 61.003………..….4, 5 42 U.S.C. 1973i(b)…5


Background True the Vote was made aware of the ongoing issue of on-campus polling access by a number of Prairie View A&M University alumni, state lawmakers, current students and select media attention in the summer of 2013. The organization learned that PVAMU had been a comprehensive voting location throughout the 1980s and was temporarily moved to allow construction for a new student union building. After structural improvements were complete, then-Precinct 3 County Commissioner Frank D. Jackson proposed due relocation to the campus in the late 1990s. To date, the campus remains without an on-site option, despite historic availability. TTV formally requested further insight into the matter in a letter dated August 20, 2013 to Debbie Hollan and Robyn German. The letter (attached in the addendum of this Proposal) established True the Vote’s concerns for a fair election and requested any details whether an oncampus voting location would not meet federal or state requirements. The following proposal provides a solution that would meet all concerned parties’ needs. ==================================================================

Proposed Solution
True the Vote respectfully proposes the following adjustment to polling place procedures in Waller County Precinct 309 effective for municipal, county, state, federal and all other elections:   Early voting will remain at the Coleman-Kemp-Smith Community Center (“Community Center”) located at 21274 FM 1098, until 2016. Effective on or before November 5, 2013, Election Day voting for county, state and federal races will occur at the Prairie View A&M University Memorial Student Center second floor ballroom (“Student Center”) located at the southeast corner of L.W. Minor and O.J. Thomas streets. On or before January 2016, PVAMU will again become the comprehensive voting location for Precinct 309.

Given the recent ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, Slip Op. 12-96, (U.S. Supreme Court June 25, 2013), such an adjustment to Waller County polling place procedure would require no federal preclearance on the matter. ================================================================== Observation 1: Facilities Comparison Based on TTV analysis, the Student Center meets and exceeds legal and logistical requirements compared to the Community Center based on Texas Election Code, Disability Access, parking and site security.


Code Compliance. As any other modern, public facility, the Student Center was designed and constructed to meet ADA compliance standards. With respect to Texas Election Code, the Student Center meets all criteria for an acceptable polling place. The Student Center is indeed a “public building” as required by § 43.031(a). Further, the Student Center meets and exceeds all requirements for elderly and disabled access as described in § 43.034. No expenditures required under § 43.034(b) are expected as part of this proposed transition.

Example of handicap access to Student Center.

Parking and Security. The Student Center offers ample parking with built-in traffic management, thanks to the PVAMU Parking and Public Safety Departments. On-campus parking surrounding the Student Center has approximately 200 parking spots, roughly 10 times the amount of parking places of the Community Center. Curbside voting can be made available to motorists in need at the southwest corner of the building.

Potential curbside voting lane.

While visitor parking usually costs $2 per visit, the school administration has agreed to waive the fee, strictly for the purpose of voter parking. Given that Precinct 309’s population density is 3

overwhelmingly based on the PVAMU campus, most potential voters will not require any parking. Facility Amenities. The second floor ballroom area of the Student Center is the optimal location for on-campus voting, given its placement, parking and comprehensive draw for every student’s personal needs. Standard hours for the building already match those required under state law for voting. The second floor ballroom is the most likely location for voter check-in and balloting on the premises. Said space offers 8,532 square feet for voters, poll workers, observers, security officers and other authorities to conduct all necessary functions required for an Election Day polling location. The ballroom offers partition functions to better streamline check-in and voting equipment layout if deemed necessary by the County. Further, the ballroom offers a sound system and video screens for each section – allowing information to be displayed to voters such as identification reminders approximate wait times (and other information allowable according to § 62.0115 and § 62.0111). Although no overnight storage should be necessary until 2016, all second floor rooms of the Student Center can be locked. Security personnel offered by the PVAMU Department of Public Safety may organize patrols or other security contingencies as needed to store voting equipment. The structure of the Student Center already offers an intuitive option for efficient curbside voting at its southwest corner. The Student Center second floor can also be made to comply with various election integrity statutes with little, if not any re-arrangement. All stairways and elevators leading to the upper level would display distance markers required under § 62.010 – effectively demarcating that the entire second floor comply with § 61.003. Privacy and noise concerns are greatly mitigated thanks to the limited student life functions occurring on the second floor. Little to no general foot traffic exists on a typical day.

Left: Second floor hall space. Right: ¼ floor space of ballroom.


Community Center Concerns. Though the Community Center has certainly served adequately as an interim facility, the Student Center offers a number of amenities more suited to address modern needs. Students reported longer-than-usual wait times to check-in for a voting booth in recent election cycles. Compared to the current polling location, it is within reason to assume that no person facing a check-in queue will be without air-conditioned comfort or shelter from any weather occurrence. The Community Center offers very limited amounts of the same. The Community Center offers a fraction of the parking freely available on campus. The Community Center currently offers approximately 20 spaces with two additional handicapped spots. True the Vote also raises a privacy concern with the current location. Compared to the windowless PVAMU ballroom, the Community Center’s windows offer multi-angle views of the voting space –thereby increasing this risk of illegal electioneering (§ 61.003) and intimidation (42 U.S.C. 1973i(b)).

Assorted images of Community Center.

Observed Conclusion. Based on TTV analysis, the second floor ballroom in the Student Center is well positioned to serve the needs of a growing first class public university and a surrounding community undergoing demographic change. 5

Observation 2: Population Trends The town of Prairie View has demonstrated some interesting breaks in population trends due in large part to the students living at PVAMU when compared against Waller County and Texas at large. While it is evident that Texas as a whole is aging, the University has done much to substantially drive down mean and median demographic indicators in its region. Prairie View Age Proportion (%) 20 to 29 30 to 85+ 2010 41.9 16.1 2000 46.2 16.5

Source: U.S. Census 2010, 2000

Prairie View has a significantly younger population as compared to other towns within Waller County and in general. Traditional college-aged students clearly comprise the largest segments of the town’s population on a consistent basis. The town also exhibits a substantially younger median age when compared against Waller County and Texas at large. Median Age Prairie View Waller County Texas 2010 20.5 31.7 33.6 2000 20.8 30.1 32.3

Source: U.S. Census 2010, 2000

It is within reason deduce that while the county and state will likely continue to age, Prairie View will maintain a significantly lower median age with expanded or even level PVAMU enrollment. Finally, the matter of population density must be considered. Precinct 309 accounts for the northern top third of Prairie View – containing the University and northwestern portions of the town. Given the vast majority of 8,000-plus full time students do indeed live in campus housing, a polling location centered in the most densely populated portion of the precinct boundaries is logical and justified. Observed Conclusion. Based on existing Precinct 309 boundaries and clear population trends, a polling location centered on the PVAMU campus is the optimal placement for a community driven by the residential student body.


Source: Google Earth and the Waller County Clerk’s Office, respectively

Observation 3: Precinct 309 Voter Turnout Trends Improved voter turnout is a vital indicator to determine the strength of our voting system. Precinct borders should be drawn and polling locations selected to pursue the most fair and efficient outputs for each election. When studied in a pure, raw turnout-based vacuum, Precinct 309 fares relatively well given publicly available canvass reports. However, two other indicators suggest that there is much room for improvement. In both cases, polling place relocation serves as the most reasonable adjustment.

Voter Turnout (Actual Votes) Precinct 309

2010 903

2008 2,573

2006 537

Source: Waller County Elections Office

The 2010 Official Canvass of Waller County noted there were 6,797 registered voters eligible to cast ballots in the precinct in question. Though 2012 data does not offer precinct turnout breakdowns or voter registration, it is reasonable to assume, given population trends, that registration rates in Precinct 309 have not significantly changed. Therefore, there is much room for growth with respect to turnout in both midterm and presidential election cycles. In 2010, Precinct 309 had the largest number of registered voters (6,797) compared to other precincts. In fact, the second largest precinct was number 207 with 3,031 voters. A more revealing figure exists in turnout. Precinct 207 turned out the second highest number of voters by precinct (accounting for 11.5% of the total), while Precinct 309 scored the lowest by inprecinct turnout.


In 2008, Precinct 309 did indeed lead the county in raw turnout compared to all others, yet it turned out less than half its registered voters. While voting precincts are bound to fluctuate between each election with respect to turnout, it remains clear that number 309 has consistently failed to achieve more than half of its potential in the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Elections according to available data. Short of re-drawing the precinct boundaries, adjusting the Election Day location is a simple solution to boosting voter turnout in Waller County’s most -registered precinct. Observed Conclusion. Precinct 309 consistently under-performs with respect to its dominant voter registration rate. There exists no more convenient a location for students to cast their franchise than the Student Center. Observation 4: Litigation Risk Assessment It is critical for all parties involved to understand that this issue of on-campus voting for Prairie View A&M University is not a local matter. The U.S. Department of Justice has taken a keen interest in the State of Texas’ voting laws and procedures and has made clear its intention to press federal courts to label Texas as unable to properly function in a post-preclearance environment. This reality has manifested itself through two pieces of litigation filed in summer 2013. In Perez v. Texas (Civil Action No. 5:11-cv-360), the DOJ has intervened in a case to bail Texas back into the Section 5 preclearance framework of the Voting Rights Act due in large part old redistricting maps. This issue of on-campus voting could act as ancillary evidence of lasting structural barriers if left unresolved in this case. United States v. Texas (Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-00263) targets Texas’ new enforcement of photo voter identification and makes broad, undocumented claims discriminatory attitudes such as: “[m]any Hispanic and African-American citizens in Texas continue to suffer the effects of official discrimination, including a history of discrimination in voting-related activities.” It is incumbent upon Waller County to not give federal authorities the opportunity to cite this matter as contemporary, concrete evidence. Unique Risk. It is True the Vote’s understanding that elected officers representing the student body of PVAMU have written to County and State election offices arguing that continued unwillingness to relocate the Precinct 309 polling location would constitute an alleged violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Though this may be a relatively broad reading of the statute, the U.S. Department of Justice has successfully published at least 15 cases of Section 2 litigation based on defendants unlawfully diluting African American and other minority voting blocs since 1988. A Section 2 complaint against Waller County could cost at minimum $30,000 if a quick resolution were sought. Such a resolution would likely take the form of a consent decree and might be congruent to the proposal TTV offers now. Legal fees are just one factor the County must consider in this risk assessment. The negative public relations impact from civil rights litigation offered by the DOJ could be long-standing and comprehensive. In a time when minorities from California, Michigan and New York are fleeing to Texas for better economic opportunities, the last issue the Texas needs is to be branded as discriminatory.


Observed Conclusion. Civil rights litigation risks and negative public relations impacts have never been greater. Continued treatment of this matter as a local issue will most likely lead to being resolved on the national stage. Summary Conclusion True the Vote understands the question of on-campus voting for PVAMU students has long been seen as a local matter to be resolved by resident stakeholders. However, population trends and voter turnout rates indicate that current poll positioning is no longer optimal for Precinct 309. Given the overtly hostile legal environment surrounding Texas, this matter could easily serve as ancillary evidence of structural discrimination for pending litigation or risk inspiring a unique claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. TTV offers its proposal having spoken with student leadership, county officials and the Texas Secretary of State’s office.





Debbie Hollan Waller County Clerk c/o Robyn German, Elections Administrator Waller County Courthouse 836 Austin Street, Room 103 Hempstead, TX 77445 RE: Questions concerning a Prairie View A&M University voting location

Dear Ms. Hollan and Ms. German: It has come to True the Vote’s attention, thanks to concerned student leaders and civil rightsfocused media organizations, that a polling location convenient to Prairie View A&M University students has been inconsistently offered in previous elections. We’ve been told that although municipal elections are held on campus, Waller County has opted to utilize the County Community Center on FM 1098. We write your office today to gain clarification on this matter. In an effort to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the issue, would you please help us understand the county’s position on the following:

Does the PVAMU Memorial Student Center fail to meet certain criteria for a voting location under County or Texas standards? Does the Waller County Community Center have a greater occupancy allowance than the proposed site? Does your office know of any other barriers to utilizing the Memorial Student Center as a permanent voting location?

True the Vote certainly understands the logistical and legal complexities of executing an election – regardless of scope. It is our hope that your response clears up a matter that could otherwise be needlessly politicized and risk creating a negative impression of a state now able to operate in a post-preclearance environment.


We look forward to your prompt response on this matter. A meeting to fully discuss these matters in your office would certainly be welcome as well. Thank you very much for your time and service.


Catherine Engelbrecht Founder & President True the Vote


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