Over a dozen students who hadn’t eaten in 15 days ended their hunger strike after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the Senate would take up the Freedom to Vote Act early in the upcoming session.
The college students, largely from Arizona, declared victory Monday in their push for lawmakers to pass federal voting rights legislation, saying they were “temporarily” ending their strike.
“Should the bill not pass for any reason by January 17th (MLK Day), we are prepared to escalate once again,” said the students, who are organizing with the nonpartisan political group Un-PAC.
They noted that they had secured a meeting with a senior White House official for early January. The Senate is currently adjourned until next year.
In a Monday letter to congressional colleagues, Schumer said that “shortly after the 117th Congress resumes in January, the Senate will consider voting rights legislation, as early as the first week back.”
The hunger strike began on Dec. 6 with a group of over 20 students from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona protesting outside the Arizona state Capitol, before moving to the White House. By the end of the 15 days, 14 of them had gone the entire time without eating, nine from Arizona and five from D.C., per the group. An estimated 40 or so other people from across the country joined their protest by fasting for various lengths.
“The Freedom to Vote Act is about getting dark money out of politics and protecting our freedom to vote. Without it, our democracy will crumble — and our futures hang in the balance,” 21-year-old striker Leo Cevallos, a senior at Arizona State, told HuffPost last week.
The Freedom to Vote Act would require states to have mail-in voting and automatic and same-day voter registration, and would ban partisan gerrymandering and undisclosed “dark money” in elections.
Republicans have repeatedly blocked the legislation from passing in the Senate.
Republicans in legislatures across the country have also been pushing hundreds of bills at the state level that would restrict voting. Such efforts have already become law in several states, including Georgia, Texas, Arkansas and Arizona.
Voting rights advocates and progressive lawmakers have urged Democratic senators to vote to eliminate the filibuster, which would allow federal legislation to pass with a simple majority, but conservative Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have said they don’t support eliminating the filibuster.
Voter restrictions disproportionately keep low-income voters, young people and Black and Latinx voters from the ballot.