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Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lina Hidalgo join forces to get out the vote

“People have to recognize the fact that they have tremendous power,” Schwarzenegger said during a virtual summit on Elections and the Future of Voting.

HOUSTON — Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, both immigrants who became U.S. citizens, share a passion for the importance of voting rights for all Americans.

They’re working to keep the momentum that led to record voter turnout in the 2020 election.

“It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a people issue,” Schwarzenegger said Tuesday during a virtual summit on Elections and the Future of Voting.

The former California governor and Hidalgo are being honored by the Jack Brooks Foundation for eliminating barriers and finding creative ways to make voting possible despite the pandemic.

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A $2.5 million grant from the Schwarzenegger Institute helped pay for new polling places to increase voter access in eight states with a history of voter suppression.

“People have to recognize the fact that they have tremendous power,” Schwarzenegger said. “Voting is the most important thing you can do.”

Hidalgo worked with other Houston leaders to make voting easier by adding more early voting locations, drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling places. The changes helped lead to the highest Harris County turnout since 1992.

In response, Texas Republicans are working to pass a sweeping bill that would limit how and when Texans cast ballots. Hidalgo says it would allow partisan poll watchers to get as close as they want to voters and record video of them.

RELATED: 'You’re not the capital of Texas' | Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick takes shot at Harris Co. leaders, defends Texas voting bil

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“That just brings to mind images from history of the KKK and, more recently, people intimidating voters of color,” Hidalgo, who was born in Colombia, said Tuesday. “I certainly know what It’s like to live in an undemocratic society and the value of that. I’ve been there, I’ve lived that...and I don’t want that to happen to our country.”

The Texas Senate passed the bill earlier this month, but it awaits action in The House.

“Don’t take this stuff laying down; get out and fight. The greatest success in the world has taken place by people’s movements,” Schwarzenegger said. “Without America, I would not have been able to accomplish the things I have in life. And America is the greatest country in the world, but we have to help keep it the greatest country in the world.”

The mission of the Jack Brooks Foundation, in honor of the late congressman from Texas, is “to develop independent, nonpartisan initiatives to empower, educate and motivate Americans to vote.”

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