AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas State Capitol was the backdrop of a Sunday evening rally where crowds gathered to support the federal voting rights “For the People Act,” which goes before the U.S. Senate this week.
The El Paso-based voter outreach group Powered by People, founded by former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, hosted the For The People Rally. “This opportunity, this talk, this responsibility to save American Democracy has fallen to us and this generation and we should ask ourselves what we are going to do with it,” said O’Rourke at the rally.
Texas lawmakers who spoke at the event also included former U.S. Sec. of Housing and Urban Development and presidential candidate Julián Castro, Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin).
In Texas, and nationwide, Republican-led elections bills have arrived on governor’s desks and have even been signed into law. Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott promised to call a special session to focus on “election integrity” after the polarizing Senate Bill 7 was effectively axed by Texas Democrats via a late-night walkout.
SB 7 would have, according to Republicans, protected elections. But others, namely Democrats, have said these laws are aimed at stopping legal voters from casting ballots. The controversial bill would have limited early voting hours, banned drive-thru and mail-in ballot drop boxes and require mail-in ballot applicants to provide ID numbers.
Even more notable, SB 7 would have essentially ended “Souls to the Polls,” a Black community tradition of voting en masse after Sunday morning church services. This element, among others, is chief among claims that GOP election bills are attempts to restrict Black and brown votes.
Nationwide, at least 253 bills that would restrict voting access have been introduced in at least 43 states — prompting the Democrat-controlled U.S. House to pass the “For the People Act” voting protections bill. Now it heads to the Senate, where it’ll face tougher odds.
The “For the People Act” aims to circumvent and block current and future strict voting restrictions passed on the state level. The gargantuan 800-page legislation package would overhaul and make several historic changes, including granting automatic voter registration nationwide, requiring at least 15 consecutive days of online voting and greenlighting independent commissions to draw district lines.
Those are only a few of its items.
In a Sunday morning interview with CNBC, O’Rourke stressed the importance of turning up the heat on Washington Democrats to act now.
“I hope that we can give President Biden and Senate Democrats some encouragement to get the job done on the ‘For the People Act,'” O’Rourke said. “Much as Lyndon Baines Johnson, in 1965, needed to be able to pass the voting rights act of that year, to create a true multi-racial democracy in America, and did so in large part because he was pressured to do so because of civil rights and voting rights leaders across the country.”
Texans from Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Waco were shuttled in for the event Sunday.
O’Rourke and Powered by People have toured the state over the past few weeks. In recent months, the former presidential candidate has teased a run for office, but there’s no official announcement yet.