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SiriusXM host on hunger strike urges Congress to put voting rights on the front burner

<i>Allison Bailey/NURPHO/AP/FILE</i><br/>Radio personality Joe Madison speaks during a rally and civil disobedience action at the White House.
Associated Press
Allison Bailey/NURPHO/AP/FILE
Radio personality Joe Madison speaks during a rally and civil disobedience action at the White House.

By Shawna Mizelle, CNN

Sirius XM radio host Joe Madison, who is engaged in a hunger strike over what he has called a “politically and morally wrong” attack on voting rights, told CNN on Friday that he wants lawmakers to put voting rights “on the front burner” when they return from their Thanksgiving recess.

Madison’s comments come as Democrats, who hold the majority in both chambers of Congress and control the White House, have been pressured to pass legislation on voting rights reform. But Senate Republicans, who hold 50 seats in the chamber, have repeatedly blocked the legislation, and Democrats on the left have increasingly called on their party’s senators to gut the Senate’s filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation.

In an interview Friday with CNN’s Don Lemon, Madison, who is on the 12th day of the hunger strike, said there have been “physical challenges,” but added he is remaining hopeful that “the senators, upon their Thanksgiving recess while they’re reflecting on the abundance of this country, that they’ll reflect on what will happen if our voting rights aren’t protected.”

Madison announced his strike on his radio show on November 8.

“As a political protest, I am beginning a hunger strike today by abstaining from eating any solid food until Congress passes, and President Biden signs, the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” he said at the time.

Since January, at least 19 states enacted 33 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote, according to an analysis in October from the Brennan Center for Justice. These laws mark a new record for restrictive voting laws since 2011, and many more bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, the center said.

In early November, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is aimed at fighting voter suppression, was blocked by Senate Republicans when the Senate took a procedural vote on whether to open debate on the legislation. The bill restores and updates key parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965, and is named in honor of the civil rights icon and late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

The final tally was 50 to 49 with GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting with Democrats in favor. At least 10 Republicans would have needed to join with all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus for the legislation to advance.

Madison said when announcing the strike that he is more concerned about the future of his children and grandchildren rather than the possible negative health ramifications of the hunger strike.

“Just as food is essential for the existence of life, voting is essential for the existence of democracy,” Madison said Friday.

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