National proxies, Texas Democrats and political leaders, including former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, are organizing a three-day march next week commemorating the 1960s civil rights movement in central Texas, in hopes of putting more pressure on Republicans voting for new elections are pushing restrictions in Texas.

“It is time to nationalize what is going on in Texas,” said Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the new Campaign for the Poor, which grew out of a group organized by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. became.

Barber, who led North Carolina’s campaign against election restriction laws, said the 27-mile march in Texas would begin Wednesday morning in Georgetown and end on July 31 at the Texas Capitol Building in Austin, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the late U.S. – MPs John Lewis and others were beaten by the police.

Dozens of civil rights groups in Texas and across the country have already pledged to join the march in hopes of getting Congress to pass national laws to protect voter rights amid a series of Republican-led efforts at state houses across the country.

“This is a crucial moment for democracy,” said O’Rourke in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, which promoted the march. “If you want to be in this fight and not just sit on the sidelines, you have to be in Austin by the 31st.”

O’Rourke’s Powered By People Political Action Committee is one of the organizers promoting the event.

He said that showing up in sufficient numbers can help Congress enforce a national voter protection law that would replace Texas’s restrictive electoral laws. In a US Senate in which the Democrats have a slim majority, election protection laws in Congress have stalled.

In particular, Barber said she wanted the Senate to end its filibuster rules, pass new voting laws, and a national minimum wage of $ 15, among other things.

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Texas Republicans say Democrats and others are wrong when they accuse them of promoting laws that suppress suffrage and disenfranchise people of color. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican who heads the Texas Senate, said Wednesday that the legislation extends early election times in most Texas counties and does not include earlier provisions that shorten early Sunday election times or make it easier to hold elections tilt.

“It’s not about voter suppression,” said Patrick during a press conference on Wednesday.

That said, the Texan Senate’s newest voting law, Senate Bill 1, ends nightly voting hours as offered in Houston and San Antonio in 2020. It would also ban drive-through polling stations in Houston and prevent election officials from sending postal ballot applications to voters who did not request them – something Houston officials tried during the pandemic.

Though the Texas Senate passed SB1, the bill can’t go into effect as the Texas House Democrats fled the state last week, leaving that chamber without enough members to pass legislation.

O’Rourke said the march was timed to aid the Democrats. who pledged to stay in Washington, DC until the end of the special session of the legislature, which ends on August 7th.

“We wanted to make sure that while they were waging this urgent and necessary battle in DC, we opened another front in this battle,” said the El Paso Democrat.

The Texas march begins every morning at 8 a.m. and ends in the early afternoon to avoid the midday heat. O’Rourke said he would march the entire distance.

In the run-up to the march, the groups plan a joint service on Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Community of Faith Church in Houston, together with Barber’s Greenleaf Christian Church in North Carolina and the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.

jeremy.wallace@chron.com