Registering voters for March Primary takes on greater significance, activists say

Groups focusing on registering voters ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline for the March Primary have said their efforts have taken on a greater significance.

“There’s never been a more important time to be in voter registration or to be a voter,” said Charlie Bonner, spokesman for MOVE Texas, which has been mobilizing and registering college students statewide since it began at UTSA in 2013.

“It’s really important that voters know that that card is the political autonomy that they have for their freedom, for their voice and for the future of democracy,” said Kimiya Factory, founder and executive director of Black Freedom Factory, which is dedicated to data driven activism and advocacy. Part of its mission is registering voters.

Each said their groups are motivated by last year’s passage of voter restrictions by the Texas Legislature and the continued push for federal voting rights legislation to counter similar efforts nationally.

Considered long overdue by civil rights advocates, President Joe Biden voiced his support for ending the filibuster in order to advance the legislation.

“In Texas, we have always had these challenges. It is not new for us,” said Lydia Camarillo, president of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, founded by civil rights pioneer Willie Velasquez. “We’ve been fighting this since we opened our doors in 1974.”

SWVRP is one of several civil rights organizations suing over what they say are the state’s efforts to suppress the vote.

“Anytime that there are laws that hurt rather than enhance participation in America’s democracy, it hurts,” Camarillo said.

SWVRP also has challenged redistricting efforts through the years.

“The way you fight right now is by registering and turning out to vote in the primaries and in the generals. And don’t forget the runoffs, there’ll be runoff elections,” Camarillo said.

Bonner agrees

“We have to keep fighting, and fighting includes showing up and casting that ballot even when they make it difficult,” he said.

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