WASHINGTON, D.C. — Across the street from the White House in Lafayette Square sits a group of Arizona college students.
“We’re not going to stop traffic, we’re just pleading for federal intervention,” said Leila Winbury, one of those students now in their ninth day of a hunger strike.
Others have joined them in Washington and across the country, as they call attention to their demand that the U.S. Senate pass the Freedom to Vote Act.
“It’s frustrating, 84% of Arizonans believe in the Freedom to Vote Act so this isn’t a partisan divide,” Winbury said.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republican lawmakers in 19 states, including Arizona, enacted restrictive voting laws in response to the 2020 election.
The Freedom to Vote Act provides national standards for early voting and mail-in voting. It also makes Election Day a national holiday.
“We are demanding both the Biden administration and the Senate defend our democracy, and for Biden to come out and be with us to ensure us there is a plan to get the Freedom to Vote Act passed this year,” said ASU student and hunger striker Brandon Ortega.
Meeting that timetable seems unlikely. A total of 10 Republican senators will have to sign on to the Freedom to Vote act in order to achieve the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who opposes filibuster reform, did meet with the students and voiced her support for election reform. But the students want more than a slap on the back.
“People are going home for the holidays while we’re here hunger striking. Putting our bodies on the line because if that [is] what it takes to get the bill passed, that’s what we need to do,” Ortega said.
The hunger strikers say they’ve been in contact with members of President Biden’s staff, but there are no plans for the students to meet with the President.
Just like there are no plans for the students to go home in time for the holidays.