Tag Archives: Elections
Homeless youth

Ensuring That A Permanent Home Is Not a Prerequisite to Voting

This week, we will read Parashat Noach, which tells the story of Noah and the flood. In this parashah (Torah portion), as the flood came upon the Earth over the course of seven days, Noah and his family took shelter in the ark, along with all the animals that “went two and two … into the ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah” (Genesis 7:8). Though the rain continues for forty days and forty nights, “Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark,” and they were safe (Genesis 7:23). Every animal was represented, and everyone was provided the shelter that would provide them with safety.

As Election Day approaches, we are reminded of the importance of making ourselves heard in our democratic process. It is crucial that as many people who can vote have the ability to get to the polls. For those who are homeless, however, registering to vote and getting to the polls can be especially challenging.

To register to vote, you must be a United States citizen, be a resident in the state where you are registering to vote, be at least 18 years old, not be a convicted felon. Nowhere on this list of criteria is having a permanent home a necessary requirement to going to the ballot box and voting.

For homeless people in a shelter, they can use the address of the shelter or where they receive mail to register to vote, and they will vote in the precinct closest to where they will receive mail. Not every state even required a mailing address to register to vote.

Courts have also addressed this issue: in 1992’s Coalition for the Homeless v. Jensen, the New York Appellate Court ruled that a requirement that people live in a traditional dwelling in order to vote put an unconstitutional constraint on the voting rights of homeless persons. When this case was heard, over one hundred residents appeared in court and were accepted as voters.

Every year, low income and homeless people vote at a lower rate than individuals with higher income individuals, even though many of the policies that they will be voting on will greatly impact them. Though having a home is not mandatory for voting, homeless individuals have long faced obstacles in registering to vote. This in part because of the voter ID laws that have made it so difficult for many Americans to get to the polls to vote, especially for those without permanent housing. Additionally, it is more challenging for individuals experiencing homelessness to learn about the candidates or to figure out where they should go to vote, because it is often harder for them to access this information.

There are many efforts underway to ensure that as many individuals – even those who do not have homes – can get to the polls. Organizations such as the National Coalition for the Homeless have been supporting voter registration efforts and are also promoting candidate’s forums on issues relevant to the homeless population. These organizations also work to provide transportation for those to go from the shelter to the polls, and volunteers drop off registration cards at the shelters and then ensure that the completed registration cards get to the proper jurisdiction office.

Despite the success of these efforts, significant challenges remain: many of the shelters are understaffed, interfering with their ability to register as many people as possible. Further, limited hours at Boards of Elections make it harder for people to vote early, which makes it harder for shelters to get individuals to the polls in an easy and efficient manner.

If your state’s voter registration deadline has not passed, make sure that you register to vote today! This Election Day, think about how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to weigh in on critical issues in our society. Every voice should count in this process, and we need to encourage as many people as possible to get to the polls and vote.

Supreme Court

Take Action to #RestoreVotingRights in Light of Major Loss in Texas

With Election Day only two weeks away, there’s no better topic to discuss than voting rights. The civil rights community is calling today #RestoreVotingRights Day in an effort to engage social media in this important conversation. This election will be the least protected election in almost 50 years because of Congress’s failure to act in the wake of the Shelby County Supreme Court decision. Free and fair elections, secured by the Voting Rights Act, are the cornerstone of American democracy, and this issue should be seen in that way. Voting rights is a Jewish issue, a civil rights issue, a Democratic issue, a Republican issue, and an issue for everyone who believes in our democracy. Read more…

A Ballot Initiative That Could Reform California’s Criminal Justice System

The United States has a problem with mass incarceration. Though our country only makes up 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. One in 99 adults live behind bars, marking the highest rate of imprisonment in American history! One in 31 adults are under some form of correctional control, which includes prison, jail, parole and probation populations. In California this November, voters have an opportunity to change that. Read more…

I "Ohio" Voting stickers

Suppressive SCOTUS Decision Reminds Us to Continue to Protect the Right to Vote

With only 16 hours left before early voting was set to begin in Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to eliminate the first week of the state’s 35-day early voting period last Monday. The decision will restrict voters’ access to the polls by eliminating the only week in Ohio’s early voting period that allows citizens to register and vote on the same day. That week is referred to as the “Golden Week” and civil rights groups have said that Sunday and the evening hours are most important to black and low-income voters and the homeless, many of whom do not have the flexibility in their jobs or daily lives to vote during business hours. Read more…

Vote signs, American flags

Time To Register To Vote

Election Day is on Tuesday November 4 – which is coming up very soon, meaning it’s time to make sure that you are registered to vote!

Our votes will determine who will be representing us on Capitol Hill, for 36 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election.

When you go to the polls this year, you will not only have the opportunity to weigh in on federal elections, but also a myriad of critical state races that are happening as well.  36 states will be choosing a new governor this November and there are 12514 state legislative contests in 47 states. Hundreds of cities and towns throughout the country will also be choosing new mayors and council members. 40 states will also be voting on 139 ballot measures, such as Massachusetts’ Ballot Question 4 on Paid Sick Days.

Read more…

Vote signs, American flags

The Fight for Free and Fair Elections

Today is National Voter Registration Day. Over the course of the day, volunteers, celebrities, and organizations across the country will hit the streets in a coordinated effort to educate and register eligible voters. The goal of the day is to reach tens of thousands of voters who might not otherwise get the information they need. In 2008, six million Americans didn’t vote due to a missed registration deadline or lack of information on how to register. National Voter Registration Day hopes to put political differences aside and celebrate democracy, unifying the American people. Read more…

What’s Next for Campaign Finance?

Campaign finance reform is an immense and complex issue, but the principles behind it are simple: one voice, one vote. In the wake of two major Supreme Court cases, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) and McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission (2014), advocates for fair elections are seeking to reverse the effects of these decisions by enacting new laws to limit campaign contributions and expenditures.

In 2011, months after the Citizens United decision, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced a Senate joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to limit campaign contributions and expenditures. The resolution saw little action until recently, when the Senate voted to block the amendment, a move that demonstrates continued disregard for the core principle of equality that should guide our elections and civic participation. Constitutional amendments are a long, slow process in the United States; recall the ongoing fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. But the process has not discouraged legislators and advocates from seeking lasting solutions and permanent reform.

As Jews, we must heed the warnings of our ancient texts that speak to the dangers of mixing money and politics (Deuteronomy 16:19). We are also commanded to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan and the stranger. In the words of former Commission on Social Action director Leonard Fein, of blessed memory, Jews have always acted on the belief that both our moral obligations and our self-interest require “a politics that speaks to the needs of those who have been left out or left behind, a politics of inclusion.” It is the poor and the immigrant who are ignored in a system where the currency that matters most is money rather than ideas. It is the poor who suffer when policy decisions are made by those who are dependent on the small percentage of the population that supplies the largest percentage of campaign contributions. Looking ahead to the November elections and beyond, it is imperative that we ensure every voter’s voice is truly equal, neither amplified nor silenced by outsized campaign contributions.

Not Just GOTV: Getting DC The Right To Vote and Have Elected Representation

During election season, a time when all 50 states are choosing elected officials to represent them on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures, we cannot forget about the constituency denied access to this fundamental right: residents of the District of Columbia, our nation’s capital. The citizens of the District of Columbia lack full representation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

However, we have reason to hope for change.  For the first time in twenty years, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will be having a full committee hearing on DC Statehood, “Equality for the District of Columbia: Discussing the Implications of S. 132, The New Columbia Admission Act of 2013” on Monday at 3 pm.

Read more…