Senate

Sinema meets with students on voting rights amid stalemate

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) speaks to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as she leaves the Senate Chamber for votes regarding judicial nominations on Wednesday, October 27, 2021.
Greg Nash

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Thursday met with 20 students engaging in a hunger strike in an effort to push for the passage of voting rights legislation.

“Senator Sinema agreed with us: our voting rights are under attack by state legislators in Arizona and across the country, and faith in our elections are at a historic low. She thanked us for our efforts, expressed a desire to remain in conversation, and reiterated her support for the Freedom To Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” striker and University of Arizona student Georgia Linden said in a statement.

“During our meeting, Senator Sinema made it clear that we are not seeing action on this issue at the federal level because there has been no move to bring the Freedom To Vote Act back into consideration since the last vote in the Senate,” Linden added.

Linden said her group was urging President Biden to make the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act a priority for this year.

“Tomorrow, on the second day of President Biden’s International ‘Summit for Democracy’, we will head to Washington, D.C., to continue our hunger strike at the White House. We still have not received a response from the Biden Administration regarding our request to meet with President Biden to discuss the moral urgency of this moment, and the need to pass the Freedom To Vote Act this year,” she said. 

“We hope that by coming to D.C., with empty stomachs but hearts full of determination, the President will agree to meet with us, and more importantly, act with the urgency that this moment requires,” Linden added.

But the call for the passage of voting rights legislation comes as Democrats remain unsuccessful in pushing through either the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act or the Freedom to Vote Act in an evenly divided Senate.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was blocked by Republicans in the upper chamber in November, would strengthen sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Supreme Court in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Freedom to Vote Act, which was introduced in the Senate in mid-September, would make Election Day a federal holiday, expand vote-by-mail eligibility and implement a minimum of 15 days of early voting, among other measures. 

As Democrats do not have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster on such legislation in the Senate, and Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) remain resistant to reforming the procedure, the passage of either bill remains an uphill battle for Democrats and activists.

“My opinion is that legislation that is crafted together, in a bipartisan way, is the legislation that’s most likely to pass and stand the test of time,” Sinema told The Washington Post in an interview published last month. “And I would certainly encourage my colleagues to use that effort to move forward.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated in a November letter to his caucus, however, that they will still push forward with conversations about the voting rights legislation.

“Even if it means going at it alone, we will continue to fight for voting rights and work to find an alternative path forward to defend the most fundamental liberty we have as citizens. To that end, a number of our colleagues — with my full support — have been discussing ideas for how to restore the Senate to protect our democracy,” Schumer said. 

The Hill has reached out to Sinema’s office and the White House for comment.

Tags Arizona Charles Schumer Freedom to Vote Act Joe Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Kyrsten Sinema Kyrsten Sinema University of Arizona voting rights legislation

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