Activists embark on voting rights march across Central Texas

Local and national activists are gathering in Georgetown Wednesday, where they are embarking on a 27-mile march across Central Texas. A major goal of the march is to back Democrats in trying to block the Texas voting bill.

The Moral March for Democracy steps off at Christ Lutheran Church in Georgetown Wednesday, and will end up in Austin on Saturday. Organizers are comparing this march to the one from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, to push Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act.

The march brings together Democratic politicians like former Congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, as well as activists from groups like the Poor People’s Campaign, which helped organize it. It will make its way south over the next four days, stopping in Round Rock and North Austin, and finally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday—where organizers expect 10,000 people to show up for a rally.

"I hope we accomplish the same thing that took place in 1965," said Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, who helped organize the march. "It’s also our desire to get the attention of the nation, to recognize how serious we are that voting is something that all of us should have access to. We do not have a voter fraud problem in Texas, we have a voter suppression problem."

Voting legislation is a central focus of this demonstration, as participants voice their opposition to the GOP-led voting bill in Texas, and their support for the "For the People Act" being pushed by Democrats in Congress. They say the Texas bill’s provisions like banning drive-through voting, limiting early voting, requiring an ID for mail-in ballots, and making poll watchers more powerful, amount to voter suppression.

Speaking at a press conference to kick off the march Tuesday night, O’Rourke voiced support for the Texas House Democrats who left Texas to block the bill.

"Texas has not only produced the men and women I’ve told you about, its produced the people who are here right now. It has produced those brave state legislators in Washington DC," said O’Rourke. "in this great democracy, there are no sidelines, so I encourage you to join us on this march and most importantly be with us in front of the state capitol this Saturday."

In addition to voting rights, marchers are calling for a $15 minimum wage, ending the filibuster in the US Senate, and adding protections for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Travis County GOP Executive Director Brian Ruddle questions the intentions behind the march and the Texas House Democrats’ exodus to Washington.

"This is not about what’s actually in the legislation that the Republicans have proposed. This is simply about posturing. This is about fundraising," said Ruddle. "It’s a false argument, it’s a hollow argument. It’s simply just to try to turn out their base"

Ruddle claims the Texas voting bill simply standardizes the voting process for everyone across Texas, and won’t have any real impact on people’s ability to vote. He argues voter turnout among minorities was high in the last election despite cries of voter suppression. 

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