By Rich McKay
(Reuters) - An arson investigation was underway on Tuesday after seven fires erupted overnight at two churches, a gas station and four other buildings near Mississippi's Jackson State University, officials told local media.
Video footage showed the worst of the seven fires near the historically Black college left Epiphany Church in ruins. There were no reports of any injuries, ABC affiliate WAPT reported.
The Jackson Fire Department began receiving calls at around 2.45 a.m., Assistant Chief Patrick Armon told WAPT. The Jackson Fire Department did not immediately respond to queries from Reuters.
All fires were extinguished by early Tuesday morning, hours before polls opened in Mississippi and other states, with voters casting ballots for congressional seats and other public offices.
It was unclear if the fires were connected to the elections, which are taking place in a year when officials have warned of the potential for violence and intimidation of candidates and voters.
The NAACP civil rights group posted a picture of Epiphany Church burning with a post that read: "We are actively monitoring the situation. No intimidation. No distractions. Go vote."
The NAACP did not respond immediately to calls from Reuters.
Shuwaski Young, a Democratic candidate for the congressional district that includes Jackson, called the fires "cowardly actions."
"This morning several churches were burned in Jackson Mississippi on Election Day," he said in a statement.
"These cowardly actions invoke historical acts of terrorism when people are fighting for their right to vote and live peacefully as Americans and Mississippians. We will not be deterred or intimidated."
Despite the fires, all polling places were opened as usual, 16 WAPT News reported.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)