Students in Arizona Launch Hunger Strike to Pass Freedom to Vote Act

The U.S. Senate is currently unable to pass election reform legislation. Three major voting rights bills have been stopped from moving forward by Republican filibusters.

A group of activists in Arizona has launched a campaign against Senate obstruction and to protect the right to vote. On Nov. 5, 20 college students and young people at the Arizona Capitol began an indefinite hunger strike to compel the Biden administration and Senate Democrats to change the Senate’s rules in order to pass the Freedom To Vote Act before the end of the year. The action is being organized Un-PAC, a non-profit organization that employs student organizers in order to educate their peers on issues related to democracy reform.

A key opponent to changing Senate rules in order to overcome the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold is first-term Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who says she supports the bill but continues to resist A change in procedures. Last month, Republicans stopped debate on a bill that would have restored some protections under The Voting Rights Act.

The Freedom to Vote Act was a compromise reached with Senator Joe Manchin (D.W.Va.).The bill was co-sponsored by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The bill would address voter suppression efforts by expanding voting access, banning partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, increasing disclosure of “dark money” spending in elections, and more. To bring it to a vote, Senate Democrats could employ “reform by ruling” with a majority by unanimously agreeing that the filibuster is a violation of Senate rules and create a “carve-out” for certain types of bills, like ones that address election access. Sinema and many other Democrats oppose such an action.

Phoenix’s hunger strikers tell their story SludgeTheir goal is push back against Big Money’s influence on the political system and secure a meeting to confirm that democracy protections are a top priority. They will hold news conferences each day to highlight community members who are affected by issues such as dark money in elections or the loss of voting rights.

“As a 20 year old, we as a generation believe it’s time to do something about protecting democracy, especially if our leaders in D.C. are not going to take a stand,” said Lauren Dorn, an Arizona State University student and spokesperson for Un-PAC. “I grew up in a post-9/11 era, where extremism and volatile rhetoric on the part of our political leaders is something I’m familiar with.”

Dorn, who participates in the hunger strike says that the Arizona cross-partisan group has been planning to begin their action for weeks. They also have medical staff ready for protestors. The Senate has a week of state work and the group is pressing for a visit with Sinema.

“We need Sen. Sinema and the Biden administration to understand that protecting democracy is not a partisan issue. Our democracy should represent the people and not dark money and special interests — voters should pick politicians and not the other way around, and I hope our voices do not go unnoticed,” Dorn said.

Sinema’s office released a statement to local news saying, “I appreciate all Arizonans engaging in our public discourse and policy and encourage young Arizonans to stay engaged in ways that protect their health and safety.”

Allie Young, an Arizona voter rights activist, told The Guardian last month that she and other longtime colleagues of Sinema in state politics have been flummoxed by the senator’s unreachability in D.C., especially on voting rights issues. Sinema has had a successful year. ducked Questions from constituents and public forums during packing her schedule corporate fundraising events.

At least 19 states have passed 33 new laws this year that limit access to voting. survey From the Brennan Center, and in more than 20 states more than 245 similar bills stand to be brought into next year’s legislative sessions.

Senator Judiciary Committee member Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.), sponsored the Freedom to Vote Act. revamped Try to get 60 votes to be eligible for consideration of a package on voting rights and electoral reform. Many of the bill’s reforms were included in the Democrats’ signature For the People Act, which was full of Democratic campaign pledges and passed by the U.S. House on March but was twice blocked by a Republican filibuster this summer.

“Arizona has had independent redistricting since 2011,” Dorn said, praising it as a model for other states. “This bill is focused on getting big money out of politics and eliminating dark money, and that’s what’s attracting young people to this movement, we’re not oblivious to what’s going on,” Dorn said. Its beneficiaries include provisions To expand voting, the Freedom to Vote Act would declare Election Day a national holiday. Dorn praised this reform for being cross-partisan. An April Pew According to a poll, large majorities of Americans support a variety of policies that make it easier to register to vote. However, registered Republicans are more opposed to some ideas like automatic voter identification.

“Without getting dark money out of politics and protecting our freedom to vote, our democracy will crumble,” said University of Arizona student Georgia Linden in a statement. “Our futures hang in the balance of the Senate’s decision to restore their rules and pass this bill this year. Our senators must meet their responsibility to represent us, not be swayed by the broken, partisan divide in D.C.”

Last month, a Brennan Center report The Freedom to Vote Act would eliminate the ability of partisan operatives to suppress voters. It would also establish clear national standards for early voting, voting by mail and the counting.

A group of 150 scholars from the U.S. Democracy was also present last month. published a letter For the Senate to adopt a majority rule to pass Freedom to Vote Act in time for the midterm elections. A Washington Post survey Last updated August, found that Sinema and Manchin are the only Senate Democratic caucus members to oppose the weakening of the filibuster rule.