Reform Jewish Leaders Call for Passage of Meaningful Election Reform Legislation
"Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our nation's democracy, yet it is easy to forget how frequently in our history the right to vote has been denied to certain citizens."
Contact: Alexis Rice or Mike Silver (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2001 - In conjunction with a Capitol Hill press conference on election reform legislation in the 107th Congress, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and David S. Davidson, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, wrote to all Members of Congress requesting their support for the Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2001, sponsored by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). The complete text of their letter follows:
On behalf of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the public policy arm of North America's largest organized Jewish community, we write in support of the Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2001 (S. 565/H.R. 1170), sponsored by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI).
The 2000 presidential election exposed numerous flaws in our nation's election procedures. To address these problems, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed legislative remedies, and we believe S. 565/H.R. 1170 is the most comprehensive of the current election reform proposals. The legislation would require that all voting machines for federal, state and local elections meet the same high performance standard by the year 2004. Each voter would have the right to receive a sample ballot before going to the polls, correct errors before his or her ballot is cast and counted, and access a provisional ballot if his or her registration status is in question on election day. The bill would also provide for enhanced resources for voter education and poll worker training; establish standards for the use of bilingual ballots; and call on states to examine voter intimidation, real or perceived, so as to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Jewish tradition teaches us that the process of choosing leaders is not a privilege, but a collective responsibility. The Sage Hillel taught "Al tifros min hatzibur, Do not separate yourself from the community" (Pirke Avot 2:5). This tradition, combined with our community's history of promoting civil rights and voting rights for all Americans, compels us to redouble our efforts to increase voter registration and participation, and ensure the franchise is protected for all citizens.
Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our nation's democracy, yet it is easy to forget how frequently in our history the right to vote has been denied to certain citizens. All Americans wishing to vote must be given a meaningful opportunity to do so, and all votes determined to be valid in accordance with established fair standards must be counted accordingly. Congress can enhance protection of these fundamental rights through enactment of meaningful electoral reforms. Thus, we strongly endorse S. 565/H.R. 1170 and urge you to ensure its passage this Congress.
Rabbi David Saperstein
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism;
Religious Action Center
David S. Davidson
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
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The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA) is a joint body of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis. The CSA oversees the work of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in Washington, D.C.