Election Reform, Resolution on

Resolution Adopted by the CCAR


Adopted by the Board of


June, 2001


The presidential

election of 2000 exposed numerous flaws in the United States’

election procedures. Across the nation, polling mechanisms, the design

of election ballots, voting rules, hours, and allocation of financial

resources vary significantly between states and localities. In many

jurisdictions utilizing older types of voting equipment (such as punch

card machines) ballots are disqualified at significantly higher rates

than in jurisdictions employing more accurate and reliable equipment

(such as optical scan machines). In some states, it has been found

that older machines are concentrated in poorer areas and result in

statistically higher rates of disqualified votes for citizens of

color, who tend to reside in these precincts. Moreover, due to the

lack of legislative prioritization for funding of election

administration, officials in many states and localities do not have

the resources to hire adequate numbers of election workers and conduct

meaningful voter education programs. Finally, in some instances,

efforts to purge ineligible voters from registration rolls (including

those who have died, moved, or been sentenced as felons) have resulted

in the mistaken elimination of fully eligible voters from registration

rolls. Election laws that place high burdens of proof on the voter,

combined with inadequate checks and balances in these systems in place

on Election Day, have made it difficult for such aggrieved voters to

obtain redress.

Many citizens are particularly embittered over the alleged

disenfranchisement of citizens of color during the 2000 presidential

election. While the events in the state of Florida have received the

most attention, the phenomenon is not limited to that state in

particular. Along with the disqualifying of thousands of disputed

ballots, there are unanswered questions about both access to the polls

and the fairness of procedures for counting of votes. Many citizens of

color harbor lingering resentment over this process, and echo the

sentiment of Representative John Lewis (D-GA), who remarked, “I

thought this was behind us.” Allegations of voter disenfranchisement

remind us of the vital importance of our government’s obligations to

vigorously enforce voting rights laws and ensure that all Americans

have free, unfettered access to fulfill their right to a secret


Our tradition teaches us that the process of choosing leaders is

not a privilege, but a collective responsibility. The Sage Hillel

taught “Al tifros min hatzibur, Do not separate yourself from

the community” (Pirke Avot 2:5). Rabbi Yitzhak taught that “A ruler

is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted”

(Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a). This ethic of political

participation has guided Jews to enthusiastically participate in the

American electoral process and is epitomized by our traditionally

strong voter turnout. Jews also have placed a priority on voter

education and registration efforts. In the past election cycle, the

Reform Movement, through the Religious Action Center, took a lead role

in this effort by publishing a “Get Out the Vote Program Plan and

Action Manual,” jointly with the Reconstructionist, Conservative, and

Orthodox Movements. Moreover, given our historical role in the civil

rights struggle, allegations of voter disenfranchisement compel us to

speak out. It is our duty to ensure that all citizens are afforded the

opportunity to vote and have their votes counted.

In order to restore confidence

in the integrity and fairness of our nation’s election process,

government agencies at the federal, state and local levels must work

together to evaluate the various components of our electoral system.

They should take any necessary and appropriate steps to strengthen

and/or change policy at the federal, state and local levels to ensure

that all persons wishing to vote are given a meaningful opportunity to

do so, and all votes determined to be valid in accordance with

established fair standards are counted accordingly. Congress and other

government agencies should assess approaches that aim to ensure

fairness with regard to casting and counting of votes, including, but

not limited to, the implementation of a uniform nationwide poll

closing time and uniform standards for counting disputed ballots

within individual states. Government agencies at the federal, state

and local levels should also evaluate and undertake measures aimed at

expanding voter registration, increasing voter participation and

ensuring equal access to the polls for all Americans. Such measures

could include, but are not limited to, weekend voting; mail-in

ballots; establishment of Election Day as a holiday; and same-day

voter registration.

For the Jewish community, the events surrounding the 2000

presidential election must be seen as a clarion call to civic duty.

The impetus now exists for us to redouble efforts, individually and

collectively, to increase voter registration and participation, and

engage in legislative advocacy to ensure that vital election reform

proposals are afforded serious consideration by our nation’s elected


Therefore, the Central Conference of American Rabbis

resolves to:

  • Call on federal, state and local governments to

    vigorously enforce voting rights laws and to ensure that all Americans

    have free, unfettered access to fulfill their right to a secret


  • Support legislation at the

    federal, state and local levels to ensure fairness with respect to the

    casting and counting of votes.

  • Support the replacement of unreliable and outmoded voting

    equipment with more accurate and reliable equipment.

  • Urge the federal government to provide financial

    assistance to state and local governments to implement improvements in

    their election systems.

  • Call on the United States Department of Justice

    and other appropriate governmental agencies to conduct a proper and

    thorough investigation into the deeply troubling allegations of voter

    disenfranchisement during the 2000 presidential election.

  • Encourage federal, state and local

    government agencies to undertake measures aimed at expanding voter

    registration, increasing voter participation and ensuring equal access

    to the polls for all Americans.

  • Call on our member rabbis to take a leadership role within

    their congregations and communities in sponsoring nonpartisan voter

    registration and voter participation drives.