Last November, despite the pandemic and a patchwork of barriers to the ballot box across the country, more than 159 million Americans voted in the 2020 elections, the highest rates seen in over a century. However, some elected officials want to roll back this progress by creating more barriers to vote. Free, safe, and accessible elections are a central aspect of a healthy democracy. These barriers to vote include strict voter ID laws, restricting registration, reducing voting hours, eliminating polling locations, and deleting voters from registration lists. Already this year, more than 360 laws that would restrict American’s freedom to vote have been introduced in 47 states. We must ensure that all Americans can safely and freely cast their ballots so that every voice is heard and our elections reflect the will of the people.
The Reform Movement’s U.S. federal legislative priorities are the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. In Canada, we are focusing on federal mandatory minimum laws.
- Protect our freedom to vote by making sure that registration and voting options are equally accessible across all 50 states through implementing national standards for federal elections;
- Ensure that voters pick their leaders, not the other way around by ending partisan gerrymandering for redistricting U.S. House districts and ensuring that all states comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and
- Invest in modernizing America’s election systems and ensuring votes are recorded on paper ballots that can be accurately recounted.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will:
- Restore and strengthen our freedom to vote by making sure that any changes to voting rules that could discriminate against voters based on race, ethnicity, or language minority status are federally reviewed, so that everyone has an equal say in the future of the United States.
The Reform Movement has the biggest impact when we bring the collective power of the Jewish community together to advocate for legislation and policy changes. As Rabbi Hillel taught, "Do not separate yourself from the community" (Pirkei Avot 2:4). It is the duty of all who cherish democracy to ensure that all citizens are not separated from our civic community and their freedom to vote is protected. Join in this essential work to strengthen democracy, stop and help dismantle a system that for hundreds of years, has created roadblocks for People of Color to make their voices heard at the voting booth.
The preservation of the right to vote for all is a fundamental Jewish value. It was inscribed at Sinai in the first-ever voice vote as the people responded -- Na’aseh v’Nishma -- we will do and we will hear/listen. The Sinai communal assent voice vote became the blueprint for a Jewish mitzvah to engage in the world. For generations the sages taught that we have an obligation to be part of the Tzibur, to communally engage and have a voice in choosing leaders. Participation in communal life got woven in a special prayer, in Pirkei Avot 3:2, “Pray for the welfare of the government.” In the 14th century the prayer for the government was inserted in siddurim all over the world. Over time the prayer was reworded, shaped by political realities and in our time we recite an American version of the Sinai tradition, “Let each of us be an advocate for justice, an activist for liberty, a defender of dignity. And let us champion the values that make us a haven for the persecuted, a beacon of hope among the nations.”
On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act. In the aftermath of the Court’s misguided decision, many states have tested the extent to which they can legally limit citizens’ access to the ballot box by introducing--and in many cases passing--restrictive voting laws.
The right to vote is fundamental in a democracy and we must ensure that elections are accessible for all. The For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) is a broad bill, that among its provisions, will protect the freedom to vote by establishing national standards for federal elections and ensuring that voter registration and voting options are equally accessible across the United States.
Reform Jews across the United States will meet virtually with their U.S. Senators July 26 - August 6 to advocate in support of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Please indicate your interest in participating in lobby meetings with your Senators and let us know how you would like to take part.