Get Out the Vote 2012: Why Jews Must Vote
This post is part our weekly Get Out the Vote 2012 series, focusing on ways to promote civic engagement in your Jewish community and highlighting portions from the RAC’s Get Out the Vote 2012 guide. Check back every Monday for new updates.
As heirs to a tradition of civic engagement, Americans Jews must participate in elections to ensure that our country’s policies at the local, state and national levels reflect our commitment to social justice. In Talmud B’rachot 55a, we are reminded that “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted,” illustrating the importance of many voices in choosing our leaders. Fast forward from Talmudic times and we still find that today, every vote counts, playing a key role in setting leadership and policy agendas.
As in most election years, there has already been talk about the effect of the “Jewish vote.” While Jews comprise less than 3% of the American population, Jews make up a significant portion of the population in many large, potential swing states such as New York, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania and California, giving our community a level of influence that belies our small numbers. Our clout has also been magnified historically because the Jewish community traditionally votes in high numbers, compared to the general population. However, many Jews do not vote, and many more, particularly under the age of 35, are not even registered. We must ensure that our entire community is registered and encourage individuals to exercise their right to vote.
This year, commit to increasing voter engagement within your congregation or organization for the upcoming election. Use the following timeline to help plan your efforts, and find more information at www.rac.org/vote.
- Form a voter registration/education taskforce.
- Begin planning a candidate forum (see page 6 of the Get Out the Vote 2012 guide for tips). Extend invitations to all legally qualified candidates as soon as possible.
- Begin planning “issue nights” to educate members in a non-partisan way about important policy issues.
- Check out your state’s rules and deadlines for registration and absentee voting on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s “State-by-State Guide.”
- Contact your congregation’s and community’s college students to remind them to register at their new address or obtain absentee ballots.
- Plan a date to help your community members who are homebound or in nursing homes register to vote and/or complete their absentee ballots.
- Hold a voter registration drive. Set up a table during special community events, the first day of religious school, and other “high traffic” times.
- Place an ad/article in your synagogue, community or organizational bulletin or newsletter reminding people to vote.
- Coordinate transportation to the polls.
- Ask your rabbi to give a non-partisan D’var Torah on the importance of civic participation and voting.
- Send out postcards and/or coordinate a phone drive reminding people to vote.
- Call college students and community members on November 5 to remind them of the election.
- Vote on November 6!
- Host a party or gathering to watch the results come in.
- Invite speakers to discuss policy implications of the elections.
- Plan a “Meet-and-Greet” with newly elected officials.
To learn more about how your congregation or organization can promote civic engagement this election season, download your copy of the RAC’s Get Out the Vote 2012 guide now at www.rac.org/vote.