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Voting Rights Issue Is Hitting the Road

Washington, D.C., voting rights advocates have renamed the field at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, changed the District’s license plates and even trained to become Olympic curlers.

Now they are taking their message on the road.

It’s all part of a plan thought up by local musicians Rob Getzschman, Dan Ryan and Max Glass, who formed the group “Indie Roots DC” as a way to use music to get Americans across the country, especially young people, involved in the issue.

“The only reason this hasn’t been changed is because the nation doesn’t know about it,” Getzschman said. “So Senators and Congressmen don’t pay attention to it.”

The trio will spend the next two months nailing down venues and bands for two nationwide indie rock concert tours set to take place this year.

Plans for both tours still are being worked out, but tentative dates for the spring tour, which will take place in the Northeast, have the first concert in Philadelphia on April 10 and the final date in D.C. on April 14 — two days before a major march is set to take place for voting rights.

The second tour is set to start Sept. 15 in D.C., making its way to 31 cities including Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New York.

Getzschman got the idea for the tour after reading a voting-rights-related comment posted on the blog, he said.

A reader posted a comment that he loved driving home with his D.C. “No Taxation Without Representation” license plates, because people along the way would ask him about them — giving a forum to bring up voting rights.

“I think people [in D.C.] get it, and I think people outside the District will get it, too,” Getzschman said.

D.C. residents have hit the road before to get Americans outside the nation’s capital interested in voting rights, said Ilir Zherka, executive director of activist group DC Vote.

One resident rode his bike with “No Taxation Without Representation” gear in tow across the country, and there has been a documentary about the issue, Zherka said.

Advocates are pushing for a vote on the current voting rights bill — which would grant both Democratic-leaning D.C. and Republican Utah a Congressional seat — by March. But the bill could get pushed back or linger in the Senate, so strong advocacy could be needed to get the bill through.

“The timing could be great if we are still dealing with this,” Zherka said.

Getzschman said he hopes to attract media attention during the tour to help further the message. To start, a friend in Oregon is using her radio show to bring attention to the tour, and organizers recently launched a MySpace Web page to raise grass-roots attention.

Hopefully, a documentary or something similar will be released about the effort, Getzschman said.

“My feeling is that activism is only [as] loud as its voice can reach, and if we are going to be touring, and hitting bars and hitting 50 people at a time, we might change some minds,” Getzschman said. “But if we had the mass media on our side … we would spread the word.”

Part of the problem that D.C. voting rights faces is the fact that many outside the city don’t understand people actually live here, Getzschman said.

“The greater nation doesn’t know that D.C. is an awesome place to live,” Getzschman said. “I love the nightlife, I love the culture. Good theater scene, good music scene, good restaurant scene, and it’s the seat of politics for the whole world.”

While organizers haven’t nailed down all the bands for the tour yet, Getzschman described the music fans can expect to hear as “sort of new wavy, to pretentious smart rock or geek rock to grunge to metal.”

“A blend of that kind of original flavor of alternative music that has sort of an intelligent bend,” he said.

For more information on the upcoming tours, visit

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