March 2, 2021
The Central Conference of American Rabbis is dismayed by a coordinated effort to adopt state legislation that would make voting more difficult. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, some 253 bills are pending in 43 states to shorten early voting periods and voting hours, erect barriers to mail ballots, enhance voter identification laws, and restrict the ability of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations to enhance voter access and turnout. The most devastating effects of these proposals would be to suppress the votes of people of color, rural voters, poor people, and older Americans.[i]
These reprehensible efforts come in the wake of the 2020 election, which featured extraordinary voter turnout[ii] and notable election security.[iii] In the aftermath of the election though, falsehoods purveyed by the defeated then-President that the election had not been free and fair have sadly been embraced by some politicians and Americans, contributing to the violent insurgency at our nation’s Capitol earlier this year. Any legislation limiting voter access which resulted from these inaccurate, divisive, and destructive assertions would be a direct abrogation of the Ninth Commandment to not bear false witness, a moral value deemed sacred within Judaism and Christianity.
In our 2020 Resolution on Free and Accessible Elections,[iv] the CCAR, noting that broadly inclusive democracy is rooted in Jewish tradition,[v] called for numerous provisions to increase voter participation and access to the polls. In 2021, as legislatures meet in statehouses across the nation, we renew our advocacy for legislation that increases, rather than restricts, the sacred American right to vote.
Rabbi Ronald Segal
Rabbi Hara E. Person
Central Conference of American Rabbis
[i] Michael Wines, “In Statehouses, Stolen-Election Myth Fuels a G.O.P. Drive to Rewrite Rules,” The New York Times, February 27, 2021.
[ii] Drew Desilver, “Turnout soared in 2020 as nearly two-thirds of eligible U.S. voters cast ballots for president,” Fatank: News in the Numbers, Pew Research Center, January 28, 2021.
[iii] Eric Tucker and Frank Bajak, “Repudiating Trump, officials say election ‘most secure,’” APNews, November 13, 2020.
[v] B.T. B’rachot 55a; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 163:1.