Resolution on Voting Rights in the United States

Posted on: Thursday April 24, 2014

Whereas the Torah recognizes the need for a judicial process without bias as fundamental to the functioning of society, as it is written “you shall not render an unfair decision” (Leviticus 19:15) and

Whereas the Talmud acknowledges the role the people must play in selecting their own leaders - “a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Berachot 55a) and

Whereas voting is a cornerstone of American democracy, all eligible voters must have free and equal access to cast their ballots and all votes should be counted equally and

Whereas 2015 marks the 50tth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), a landmark act of Congress addressing discrimination against minorities in voting that has been amended five times in order to protect the voting rights of all Americans and   

Whereas on June 25, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelvy v. Holder invalidated key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, striking down section 4(b) which required areas with a history of discriminatory voting practices to seek pre-approval from the Department of Justice before making changes to election procedures so as to block discrimination before it occurs and

Whereas in recent years there have been many attempts to limit a citizen’s ability to vote through a variety of voter ID laws, restrictions on third party registration, limits on when and where individuals can register and on early or absentee voting, all of which have a particularly adverse impact on minorities and

Whereas in January 2014 a bipartisan group in Congress introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 to address discrimination in the voting process including a new preclearance formula to replace that which the Court struck down; a requirement of public notice in communities changing voting procedures; authority for courts to stop voting changes before an election if they appear discriminatory; provisions for the Department of Justice to put election observers in place if there is a concern about discrimination at the polls and

Whereas the Conservative Movement and the Rabbinical Assembly have traditionally worked with other movements and organizations in the Jewish community in a non-partisan manner to promote voter registration and expand efforts to get out the vote.

Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly calls for swift passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 and  

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly opposes all efforts to limit access of historically disenfranchised populations to voting on the federal and state levels; endorses electoral reforms that increase access to registration and voting for all Americans; urges all members to learn about and speak against all voter suppression efforts which undermine our democracy and to reach out to other clergy and religious organizations in their community to form coalitions that will work to strengthen access to voting and oppose efforts aimed at disenfranchising any citizens and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourages its members to play an active role in non-partisan campaigns that seek to increase voter turnout in the lead up to the 2014 and 2016 elections.