LUBBOCK, Texas (KJTV) - Former presidential Democratic primary candidate Beto O’Rourke visited Lubbock on Friday to advocate for voting rights, in a time when he says they are under attack.
“I think this is the most important thing that we could be working on right now,” O’Rourke said.
On his second stop of the Texas Drive for Democracy Tour, a crowd of supporters met him with enthusiasm at Wagner Park in Tech Terrace.
“I love seeing so many people, I was honestly a little bit surprised,” Morgan Eldridge, who attended the informal town hall, said. “Having the right to vote is something that everyone should have here and that’s something that we should be standing up for.”
“I hadn’t actually heard him speak before in person. This is a good experience, and I definitely like what I’m hearing, " Donnie Bryant said.
The El Paso native cited several concerns about the current state of voting rights.
“You had a recent elections bill, Senate Bill 7, that would have changed how we vote, the hours during which we can vote, who can vote, and couldn’t vote. When you add that to the recent insurrection at the United States Capitol, ‘The Big Lie’ being trumpted by our former president, we really have a crisis when it comes to voting and democracy,” he said. “ I want to make sure that we gather as Republicans and Democrats, and more than anything, as Texans around making sure that we have free and fair elections in this country.”
The bill passed in the Senate, but House Democrats walked out on discussions blocking the legislation right before session ended. But Governor Abbott has threatened to call a special session to get it passed.
Lubbock State Sen. Charles Perry, a primary author of bill, said in a statement:
“SB 7 simply reaffirms existing Texas election law that provides election integrity by requiring voter identification, a verifiable mail-in balloting process, implementing backup paper ballots and implementing controls over voter verification of ballots where oversight is needed but out of the public eye. Those that say otherwise, haven’t read the bill.”
David Bruegel is the vice chair of the Lubbock County Republican Party.
“Welcome to Lubbock, Mr. O’Rourke, but we certainly welcome you to take your ideas elsewhere,” he said. ”Our concern is that voting rights are in jeopardy because of election fraud. So yes, we do think that voting rights are under attack but not from the same perspective that Mr. O’Rourke thinks,” he said.
When asked if he would consider a run for the governor’s seat in 2022, O’Rourke said he has another priority at the moment.
“I’m really focused on this voting rights fight, making sure that we protect the right to vote and remove all obstacles to those who want to cast a ballot. After we are through with this, after we’ve secured that right, I’m going to look at what I can do to be helpful in Texas. And that might be run for office, it might be supporting others who are running for office,” he said.
Earlier in the day, O’Rourke also became a volunteer deputy registrar or DVR in Lubbock County.
That allows him to legally register citizens in the county to vote.
O’Rourke is also using his time with voters to advocate in favor of the “For the People Act” in congress. He says it would both protect and expand voting rights nationwide. Some provisions include automatic voter registration and replacing gerrymandering in congressional districts.
O’Rourke calls it the most significant piece of voting rights legislation since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“This is the bill for our time. this is a bill that can save democracy in America.”
O’Rourke will continue to travel to more than a dozen other Texas cities over the next month.
Copyright 2021 KCBD. All rights reserved.