In order to see a fair and safe election in Pennsylvania in November, the Reform Jewish community throughout the state needs to come together to do this work from two directions.
The first direction, breaking through barriers to the ballot box, requires we make system-level change at the state and county level. We need to contact elections officials and elected officials to change laws and implement policies that will advance a voting culture that empowers and encourages all voters to get to the polls or successfully receive and mail back a ballot.
And because systemic changes can take time, we need to come at the problem from the second direction, by supporting voters in the Jewish community and all voters who face barriers to the ballot. This includes individual voter education and outreach to ensure everyone can register and vote safely.
Advocating for Systemic Change at the County Level
In Pennsylvania, the state enacts and enforces election laws. However, counties are responsible for overseeing and administering elections, which means they have a great deal of control over the in-person and mail-in voting process. With such a diversity of election administration structures, we know how critical it will be to tailor our advocacy efforts to county-specific issues in order to make sure we have a safe and secure election. We have volunteer County Captains who are forming teams to assess where each county is and if necessary, meet with your county officials to ensure they are implementing the best practices that allow for the greatest safe access to the ballot. Please let us know if you have a relationship with an elections decision-maker that might be helpful, or if you would like to be involved in changing elections policy and practices, by emailing Robin Bender Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
100% Voting Congregations
The focus of this strategy is to ensure every eligible voter in our Jewish congregations and communities is registered to vote, understands how to vote in this unusual time, is committed to voting, and makes a plan for how they will vote that they stick to on or before election day.
Clergy and lay leaders should consider adding a message in your weekly e-newsletter or Shabbat service announcements, and if your congregation makes high holiday calls, please include voter registration and helping mobilize voters to the conversation. You can also use the Empower App, a tool that allows you to organize the people you know to register and vote, to strengthen existing relationships and find common ground to build power and affect change. Email Bill Madway at email@example.com for great resources on congregational outreach and recruiting volunteers, and Amanda Wachstein at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions on the Empower app.
Some Pennsylvania congregations are opting to match publicly available voter information with your membership lists, to find out what % of your congregation voted in the past, and plan an outreach strategy to increase that number in 2020. This list matching does not include party affiliation or how an individual voted, but does include whether or not they voted in the past. If your congregation is interested in matching your membership list with the publicly available voter data, please contact Joy Friedman at email@example.com.
Together with our partners at One PA, we will engage 10,000 voters several times between August and November. We will phone bank to this group of under-represented voters across Pennsylvania in order to inspire them to vote, ensure that they are registered, discuss their voting plans, make sure they can get access to their ballots, and celebrate when they cast their ballots. To participate in our phone banking sessions, see the schedule below and click the date(s) to sign up. Send any questions to Michelle Brancheau-Fogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The RAC-PA group in The Tent, our online hub for networking across the Reform Jewish community, is our virtual space for conversation and sharing resources. You can also find recordings of our trainings and meetings, slide decks, and other leaders working on civic engagement across PA. Many of the resources we have require you to join The Tent. If you have problems joining, contact URJ1800@urj.org.
- You can sign up for our National Every Voice Every Vote Every Week calls at RAC.org/everyweek. These are weekly themed trainings where you can learn a new tool and practice using it on the call every Wednesday evening.
- Report back to the RAC to celebrate your community’s efforts and make sure they’re counted in the campaign.
- Be a resource to us! If you are able, please support RAC-PA’s work by making a meaningful gift today.
Forming Your Civic Engagement Team
Effective civic engagement work is a team effort. This video talks about how to form a civic engagement team in your Reform congregation or community.
100% Voting Congregation and Communities
- National Guide to 100% Voting Congregations
- Webinar on 100% Voting
- How to use the Empower App
- Digital Pledge Cards – Research shows that when people share a plan for voting, they are more likely to vote. Share the link for this pledge with people in your congregation.
- Case Studies from 2018 Reform Movement Civic Engagement Work
- Jewish Teachings on Civic Engagement
Reaching Out to Infrequent Voters in Other States
- Check out the RAC’s national Partner: Center for Common Ground and it’s Reclaim Our Vote Project.
- Set up your own community phone bank or make phone calls to voters on your own
- Video and slide deck on phone banks to voters in other states
Students and Young Voters
See our student site for information and registration for upcoming trainings for 14-18 year-olds and 18-29 year-olds interested in leading civic engagement work in their communities.
Helpful Dates and Links for PA
- 10/19: Last day to register to vote
- 10/27: Last day to apply for a mail-in ballot
- 11/3: ELECTION DAY (Polls are open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM - Mail-in and civilian absentee ballots must be postmarked by 8 PM
- 11/6: Last day for County Boards of Elections to receive voted mail-in and civilian absentee ballots - Ballots must be received by 5 PM
- 11/10: Last day for County Boards of Elections to receive voted military and overseas absentee ballots - Ballots must be submitted for delivery no later than 11:59 PM on November 2
Helpful Links and Resources
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) Civic Engagement Campaign
Votes PA: The best source of voting-related info from the state
League of Women Voters PA (includes a list of local chapters)
VOTE411: Offers custom election info for voters on a state-by-state basis (League of Women Voters Education Fund)
Common Cause PA: A leading nonpartisan voters’ rights organization
Committee of 70: A highly-respected voting rights and citizen engagement organization
WeVote: A nonpartisan civic awareness campaign aimed at making sure every vote counts (a Committee of 70 initiative)