July 18, 2023 Washington, D.C. -- In response to the reintroduction of the Freedom to Vote Act, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement:
“We applaud Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD-3) for reintroducing the Freedom to Vote Act, which protects and expands voting rights, ends partisan gerrymandering, implements critical campaign finance reforms, and helps safeguard our electoral process. We renew our call for Congress to swiftly pass this bill and urge the Senate, if necessary, to reform the filibuster so federal voting rights protections may finally become law.
This reintroduction comes at a pivotal moment for American democracy. Following the Supreme Court decisions in Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. DNC weakening federal voting rights protections, state legislatures across the country introduced hundreds of restrictive voting laws, enacting almost 100 within the past decade (including a near-record number in the first half of 2023 alone). These laws disproportionately restrict voting rights for People of Color, people with disabilities, voters in low-income and rural communities, elderly voters, and young and first-time voters. As dozens of states continue to enact new barriers to voting, Congress must act to guarantee voting rights for all Americans, no matter their zip code, race, political affiliation, or any other characteristic.
The Reform Jewish Movement has long supported voting rights, recognizing that democracy is strongest when every vote is counted – and that democracy suffers when voters are suppressed. We are proud that portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were drafted in the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s conference room in Washington D.C. In 2020 and 2022, our nonpartisan Every Voice, Every Vote civic engagement campaigns reached nearly 1.5 million voters. In 2021, our Racial Justice Campaign mobilized thousands of Reform Jews in support of Freedom to Vote legislation. This commitment is guided by Jewish text and tradition, including the words of Rabbi Yitzchak, who taught that 'a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted' (Babylonian Talmud, B'rachot 55a). As we work towards a true multiracial democracy, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that all Americans can access the ballot box and that our democracy responds to the needs and priorities of voters.
We cannot stand by as states continue to strip away voting rights from our communities. As we celebrate today’s reintroduction of the Freedom to Vote Act, we thank Senator Klobuchar and Representative Sarbanes for their continued leadership and urge Congress to quickly pass this bill so the promise of democracy becomes true for all Americans.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.8 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit RAC.org for more. The Religious Action Center's work on democracy and voting rights is made possible in part by the Leo and Libby Nevas Family Foundation.