Texas' secretary of state announced Friday that students at Prairie View A&M University will be allowed to vote in November's election without having to fill out change of address forms, and that officials will be stationed at a campus polling sites to ensure there are no problems casting ballots.
Democrats had complained that officials might block students at the historically black college from voting because of issues over addresses they used to register to vote. That prompted Secretary of State Rolando Pablos to convene a conference call Friday with Waller County officials, the heads of the county's Democratic and Republican parties, and Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel.
All parties then issued a statement saying no students will be "impeded, hampered, or otherwise delayed" in voting and that "no change of address form or statement of residence will be required prior to voting." Students will, though, be able to update their address after casting ballots so that it's current for future elections.
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The statement added that Pablos "has committed to providing election inspection staff" at the Prairie View campus precinct location "to ensure that procedures are being followed properly, that registered students are able to cast a regular ballot, and that all Waller County voters can trust the process to be fair, transparent, and accountable -- both in this year's election and in subsequent elections."
Friday's call followed Democrats pressuring officials to update the status of Prairie View A&M University students whose voter registrations had looked like they could be in jeopardy.
They argued that Waller County incorrectly registered the Prairie View students, saying that they shouldn't have to fill out change-of-address forms to vote. But Waller County officials had said they couldn't honor the Democrats' demand because the Secretary of State's office instructed them to have students fill out the forms, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Thousands of students learned they may have registered under the wrong address on Tuesday, the final day to register to vote. The mix-up partly stemmed from how students receive mail. The university doesn't have individual mailboxes for students on campus. Instead, every student is provided a single P.O. box.
Two years ago, university officials, the county and local political parties agreed to have Prairie View students use either 700 University Drive or 100 University Drive as their residence when registering to vote. One address belongs to the university, while the other is for the campus bookstore.
Waller County Elections Administrator Christy Eason noted in the March primary election that the 700 University Drive address puts students in the City Hall precinct instead of the one on campus. Officials decided that students could vote at the polling place on campus but they had to fill out a change-of-address form.
The dispute escalated into an arrest Wednesday involving a member of 10th Congressional District Democratic nominee Mike Siegel's campaign. Siegel's field director, Jacob Aronowitz, was arrested at the Waller County courthouse after delivering a letter regarding the registration issue. The letter, signed by Siegel, two local candidates and the county's Democratic Party chair, demands that the county update the affected students' registrations.
Siegel said Aronowitz was charged with a misdemeanor for "failure to identify" himself, but the charge was dropped after a review of the incident.
Democratic Rep. Al Green expressed concern about the county's additional paperwork requirement for students. Green sent a letter requesting U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the matter, citing previous cases in which Waller County was accused of disenfranchising African-American residents and Prairie View students.