Rabbinical Assembly Statement on the Right to Vote by Absentee Ballot

Posted on: Thursday May 7, 2020

In its March 2019 Resolution on Voting Rights in the United States of America, the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, called on state legislatures to remove unnecessary and restrictive barriers to voting.

These measures include instituting internet voter registration, early voting and no-reason absentee voting, and to prohibit local clerks from removing voters from the poll books except upon actual knowledge that the voter has moved to another jurisdiction or is deceased. In previous years’ resolutions, the RA had also been supportive easing voter registration laws and liberalizing absentee ballot and vote-by-mail laws.

In response to the coronavirus' potential impact on upcoming 2020 elections in the United States, the Rabbinical Assembly issued the following statement on the right to vote by absentee ballot, often also known as vote-by-mail:

At this unprecedented time in modern history, the Rabbinical Assembly supports the unencumbered right to participate in local and federal elections with vote-by-mail, online, over the Internet, and absentee ballots with no requirement to provide a reason nor so-called valid excuse. We reaffirm that voting is a cornerstone of American democracy and that all eligible voters must have free and equal access to cast their ballots and that all votes be counted equally.

As we self-isolate and quarantine to stave off the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundamental Jewish imperative to preserve life, Pikuah Nefesh, must apply to our electoral contests. In this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever for elections to take place safely, securely and conveniently and for us to uphold the mitzvah of responsibility for and to each other. This obligation will fall mostly on our elected officials and lawmakers. We wish them strength and wisdom in navigating the crisis.

For these reasons, the Rabbinical Assembly strongly supports preserving at-home and no excuse absentee voting, often also known as vote-by-mail, amidst the pandemic, and expanding voting rights to preserve these and similar provisions henceforth.

The Conservative movement also maintains that its clergy, professionals, lay leaders, and participants continue to adhere to guidance provided by government and medical authorities and to cancel or postpone any and all physical gatherings counter to such guidance, maintaining practices that adhere to national and local governmental directives.