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Reform Movement Applauds New Bill Restoring Voting Rights

Reform Movement Applauds New Bill Restoring Voting Rights

Contact: Max Rosenblum or Claire Shimberg

202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Washington, D.C., March 18, 2015 – In response to the introduction of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2015, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We commend today’s reintroduction of the Democracy Restoration Act, which seeks to restore federal voting rights to men and women who have served their time in prison. Currently, 5.85 million American citizens are denied the right to vote because of criminal convictions, 4.4 million of whom have been released from prison and work in our communities, pay taxes and raise their families.

The Reform Movement has long recognized the importance of voting rights for all Americans. Particularly as our nation marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act, we are reminded of the fundamental importance of the franchise. Expressing one’s views at the ballot box reflects positive civic engagement and is an important part of fostering a sense of responsibility to one’s community and country. Criminal disenfranchisement laws also disproportionately affect minorities and communities of color because of the racial inequities that persist in our criminal justice system. As a result, 1 in 13 African Americans nationwide is unable to fully participate in civic life.

Our biblical tradition emphasizes the importance of teshuva, or repentance. In Leviticus 16:29-30, we are taught that once one atones for their sins, they start anew with a clean slate. They are therefore deserving of a second chance. These lessons inspire our belief that those who have served their sentences should similarly be allowed a fresh start, including the right to vote.

We urge all members of Congress to join with lead sponsors Senator Ben Cardin and Representative John Conyers in support of this bill and help ensure that the right to vote is accessible to all.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.