AUSTIN, Texas — Country crooner and pop culture icon Willie Nelson was scheduled to perform at the Texas Capitol at Saturday’s finale of a four-day march in central Texas aimed at building support for passage of federal voting protections, organizers said early Thursday.
In a written statement, Nelson denounced as “unAmerican” the election law proposals advancing in red states, such as GOP-backed measures now pending before each chamber of the Texas Legislature.
“Laws making it more difficult for people to vote are unAmerican and are intended to punish people of color, the elderly and disabled,” said Nelson, a Country Music Hall of Fame honoree and activist.
“Why? If you can’t win playing by the rules, then it’s you and your platform [at fault] — not everyone else’s ability to vote,” he said.
Nelson was set to perform at the concluding event of the “March for Democracy,” which is asking Congress to pass the For the People Act and to restore portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated. The march is styled after the Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama in March 1965.
Saturday’s rally in Austin was to be Nelson’s first live show before a large audience since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year. Nelson staged three small shows in early July at his ranch in Spicewood.
The “March for Democracy” finale was scheduled to begin on the south steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. CT Saturday.
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II’s Poor People’s Campaign was hosting the march and rally. Supporters include Black Voters Matter, former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke’s Powered by People and dozens of civil rights, progressive, union and religious groups.
“It is important that we ensure the right for every American to vote and vote safely,” Nelson said.
Passage of the Texas bills has been thwarted by more than 55 House Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C., on July 12.
State Republican leaders say the bills — Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 — are needed to deter voter fraud. Both would require additional ID verifications for mail-in ballots, allow partisan poll watchers “free movement” and prevent elections officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who don’t request one.
The quorum-breaking Democratic lawmakers insist the bills are designed to discourage minority, disabled, elderly and young voters from casting ballots.
Republicans have large majorities in both chambers, and Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to keep calling special sessions until the “election integrity” bill is passed.