“Without a national standard for voting rights and voting reform, states are going to just chip away at the rights of voters state by state,” Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the SB7 walk-out organizers, told CNN shortly after arriving in Washington, DC, on Monday. “Hopefully, this might inform minds and shape opinions when folks are in that Senate cloakroom wrestling over how they’re going to proceed with HR1 and HR4.”
Speaking to reporters Monday from South Carolina, Harris said, “Voting rights and this issue of free and fair elections are one of the most important pillars of our democracy, and we’re seeing efforts to weaken it, and so we’re going to be in support of everything that we can possibly to do push back against laws that are designed to suppress peoples’ right to vote, and we’re going to push for people to be more informed about what is happening, so they can also hold their elected officials accountable in the states and all over the country.”
“I can’t think of a more symbolic demonstration of our freedom and our democracy, than to be at the White House on Wednesday meeting with the vice president of the United States, talking about defending our democracy at home, when at the very same time, President Biden will be in Switzerland meeting with President Putin talking about the need to preserve democracy abroad,” said Martinez Fischer. “So, I think Wednesday is a big day for democracy for the world. And we’re just honored to be a part of it, to stand with Vice President Harris and recommit our support for voting rights reform.”
“I know that there are people up there that are for this, and we’re going to meet with them. We’re going to tell them, ‘Thank you,’ and see what we can do to help them continue this fight. And then, of course, we know that there are folks who are on the fence or undecided or against either all of it, or some of it. And, you know, as a lawmaker, I want to get deep on that. I want to know, ‘Are you a hell no? Are you just opposed to some provisions?’ Because there’s always a negotiator somewhere, trying to find a third way,” explained Martinez Fischer, when asked how their trip might make an impact on seemingly steadfast positions on the bill.
To that end, the Texas Democrats plan to put an exclamation point on their week of action on voting rights by attending a major rally headlined by former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Sunday in Austin.
O’Rourke, who has been traveling the state of Texas hosting voting rights events spoke with CNN on Monday night after a voter registration rally outside of Houston, said he believes the national attention his home state Democrats attracted last month can help add the right kind of pressure to his former Capitol Hill colleagues.
“It didn’t end when they walked out. They’re continuing this fight, and they’re pushing the US Senate Democrats to do their part, right? Like they didn’t just wash their hands of it and walk away. They’re up in DC and applying that pressure and offering that example of what leadership and courage looks like,” said O’Rourke, who noted that he believes Democrats still aren’t doing enough to meet the moment.
“This is your example, they’re in the political minority, they were able to do it. And you, you in the political majority certainly must do it. And I also hope a spur to President Biden to do — he’s done amazing work on this — but to do even more … I want him to bring us together around this existential threat to representative government in America.”
Though the Texas state lawmakers hope to speak with him, there’s no official meeting scheduled with the West Virginia Democrat who recently announced his dislike of the legislation and is the only Democrat in the US Senate not listed as a co-sponsor of the bill.
He added: “Some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.”
Activists, like Charlie Bonner with MOVE Texas, who have been meeting with the state lawmakers leading up to this trip hope the personal stories from the lawmakers on the ground will have some kind of impact.
“We’ve got one shot to get this right- real action, not some form of watered down bullshit on this, to be passed. We need real comprehensive action to protect the right to vote right now, that is clear from all of these states. This is it,” said Bonner in a phone interview with CNN. “If we allow these laws to be rewritten that make it easier to overturn elections to make it easier to go after election officials you don’t agree with, let them be vilified for doing their jobs… There’s no going back from that. So we either stop this now or reap the consequences for generations.”
“It requires urgency and it requires real action. And we have to make that clear to people. Because from what I’m seeing, that is not clear to the Joe Manchins of the world right now. He does not understand the gravity of what is happening in Texas and the reality of what is happening across the south in this moment.”
“Doing nothing is not an option,” Martinez Fischer said. “You know, there’s no saying in Texas about fighting on your feet, rather than dying on your knees. Right? And so we are fighting. This is gonna be a fight to the bitter end. And it’s really incumbent upon everybody to do what they can.”
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