HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A group of politically conservative country music stars launched a get-out-the-vote project Tuesday, saying everyone has a responsibility to vote in November regardless of political affiliation.
``Your vote does count,'' country and bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs said. ``It's a God-given right and a freedom that we have in this country. And freedom is not free.''
The ``Your Country Your Vote'' initiative involves artists who appeared on ``America Will Always Stand,'' a recent album of original music inspired by the Civil War.
The project will include public service announcements by Skaggs, Randy Travis, Darryl Worley, Josh Turner, Marty Raybon, Billy Dean and others.
Despite the nonpartisan tone of their plea, Skaggs made clear his personal support for Bush. He was set to leave Tuesday to participate in a Bush campaign rally in Minneapolis.
``It's time to speak for America and not just one party,'' he said. ``To me, this is the most important election in our nation's history.''
Dean said voting gives citizens leverage against special interest groups in Washington.
``We've got what we've got today because of Democrats and Republicans _ not just because of Republicans, not just because of Democrats,'' said Dean, whose 1991 platinum-selling album featured the hits ``Billy the Kid'' and ``If There Hadn't Been You.''
Skaggs, who has 11 No. 1 hits including ``Uncle Pen'' and ``Country Boy,'' said celebrity endorsements and get-out-the-vote projects probably have a marginal effect, but that he'd feel as though he accomplished something ``if I can encourage just 10 people in America to get out and vote.''
Referring to musicians such as Bruce Springsteen and the Dixie Chicks who are actively working to oust Bush, Skaggs said, ``I don't think that's going to make a big difference in the election .... The American people, they're not going to let Bruce Springsteen or anybody else or Ricky Skaggs or Marty Raybon or Billy Dean choose who they vote for.
``And we're certainly not going to let Hollywood choose who we vote for because I don't think they really have a pulse on America,'' Skaggs said. ``I think the heartland of America is Nashville, Tennessee, or Kansas City or St. Louis or Denver, Colorado _ that's the heartland of America.''