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Willie Nelson performs at rally concluding voting rights march to Texas State Capitol

The 27-mile "Selma to Montgomery-style" voting rights march started on Wednesday, July 28 in Georgetown.

AUSTIN, Texas — County music legend Willie Nelson performed at the Texas State Capitol on Saturday for the conclusion of the "Selma to Montgomery-style" voting rights march. 

The 27-mile march started on Wednesday, July 28, in Georgetown. Marchers met at the Texas AFL-CIO building in Austin at 9 a.m. on Saturday to finish the trek to the Capitol. There, marchers began a rally at 10 a.m. where Nelson performed.

Luci Baines Johnson, younger daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, joined the group for the march to the Capitol. President Lyndon B. Johnson was the one who signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"Without you the people, we never would have achieved them," said Luci Bains Johnson, addressing voting rights. "And without you the people, we could lose them."

Other speakers included Rev. William J. Barber II, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and more. 

Organizers of the rally, including O’Rourke, believe recent legislation being supported by Texas Republican Lawmakers is a threat to voting rights.

"Our Voter ID law says you can use your license to carry a firearm to prove who you are at the polling place, but you cannot use your student ID for the University of Texas at Austin to prove who you are at the polling place," said O’Rourke.

Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 would ban drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting, among other things. A Harris County election worker says these resources allowed flexibility and better access for voters during this past election.

"They tried to invalidate all 130,000 votes, but we fought them in the courts, and we won!” exclaimed the election worker at the rally.

While the rally was happening, there was a small counter rally taking place just outside the Capitol. Republican State Sen. Bryan Hughes was there. He is actually the one who wrote Senate Bill 1 and says the bill consists of common-sense election reforms.

"Once they read the bill they'll realize these are common-sense reforms,” said Hughes. “Easy to vote, hard to cheat. When the Democrats do come back in the House, we'll have a good debate, and we'll pass this bill because it protects the votes of every Texan."

Civil rights activists, like Rev. Barber, are calling on the federal government to intervene and pass the "For the People Act" to prevent states from passing legislation that they believe limits voter access.

"Mr. President, let me tell you something you might not be used to hearing from a preacher, but ain't no need to have power if you're not going to use it for good,” said Rev. Barber.

RELATED: Voting rights activists, including Beto O'Rourke, continue march from Georgetown to Austin

Nelson issued the following statement before his performance:

“It is important that we ensure the right for EVERY American to vote and vote safely. Laws making it more difficult for people to vote are UnAmerican & are intended to punish poor people, people of color, the elderly & disabled…why? If you can’t win by playing the rules, then it’s you & your platform – not everyone else’s ability to vote.”

The march was led by the Poor People’s Campaign, Black Voters Matter and O’Rourke’s organization Powered By the People, among other organizations. 

RELATED: Willie Nelson, Beto O'Rourke raise money to back Texas Democrats in elections bill fight

It comes as the majority of Texas House and Senate Democrats remain in Washington, D.C., to break quorum during the Legislature’s special session due to a controversial election reform bill.


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