WASHINGTON – Protesters began a second hunger strike Thursday to demand Congress pass voting rights legislation, even though any chance of an overhaul appears dead.
"I'm sure everyone here shares this sentiment that this hunger strike is easier to endure than the consequences of not passing this bill," Arizona State University student Brandon Ortega told Fox News Digital. "This is our lives that are hanging in the balance."
The 40 youth activists are planning to strike indefinitely unless the legislation passes the Senate. But after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema reaffirmed that she would not vote to remove the filibuster, which would have meant the upper chamber only needed a simply majority to pass the voting rights bills, the legislation appears to have no immediate path forward.
Ortega said voting rights legislation was necessary since "several states have been introducing more and more voting restriction laws."
The federal bills, if passed, would allow for same-day voter registration, establish Election Day as a national holiday and expand mail-in voting. But critics have argued that some measures would open elections to fraud.
The legislation would ensure "voters can freely and safely cast their ballots," Ortega told Fox News Digital.
Similarly, Generation Vote founder Brianna Cea added: "From New York to Texas, Michigan and Florida, we've spoken to young people who have been forced to jump through hoops to exercise their right to vote."
Regardless, with the filibuster still in place, Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation.
"There's no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation," Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, said on the Senate floor. "There's no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy."
Strikers urged the Arizona senator to change her position.
"Senator Sinema, I implore you to reconsider this position," Declaration for American Democracy Director Jana Morgan said. "You have the power to change this country for the better. You must prioritize our country's future by choosing to protect the freedom to vote over an arcane Senate loophole."
In December, the activists ended a previous hunger strike after 15 days when President Biden said he would make voting rights a priority in the new year.
Strikers experienced "dangerously low" blood pressure, "unbearable" headaches, and "upwards of 10 pounds" in weight loss, Un-PAC co-founder Shana Gallagher said during a press conference.
Ortega described feeling "hunger pains, fatigue and just general discomfort."
The ASU student told Fox News Digital they would not stop fighting for the legislation.
"We hope we won't have to go longer than Martin Luther King Day but, we're still committed to an indefinite hunger strike," the ASU junior said.
The Senate won't reconvene until after the holiday.