Voter turnout in this year’s midterm elections was the lowest voter turnout in any election cycle since World War II (when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots). Only 36.4 percent of the voting eligible population cast ballots this year, continuing the trend of declining participation in midterm elections. Read more…
The end of the 113th Congress will mark a milestone for women in politics: for the first time in history, 100 women will serve together in Congress. After Democrat Alma Adams (NC-12) is sworn in tomorrow (replacing Mel Watt who left Congress to the run the Federal Housing Finance Agency), the 113th Congress will close out with 20 women Senators and 80 women Representatives, up from the 79 who served for most of the term.
In the 114th Congress, the number of women Senators will remain at 20, possibility rising to 21 should incumbent Mary Landrieu (D-LA) win her runoff in Louisiana, and anywhere from 81 to 85 women will serve in the House, depending on the outcome of races still too close to call. Read more…
Tuesday night was a big night for criminal justice reform advocates. Criminal justice reform has become a rare point of bipartisanship among some Democrats and Republicans, and a number of successful ballot initiatives across the country show that voters care about reforming the system too. The initiatives passed embrace the notion of “Smart on Crime,” a replacement for the old idea that being “tough on crime” was the best way to make communities safer. Attorney General Eric Holder explained that “by targeting the most serious offenses, prosecuting the most dangerous criminals, directing assistance to crime ‘hot spots,’ and pursuing new ways to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency, and fairness – we can become both smarter and tougher on crime.” Read more…
With the Election Day results in, the door is now open for serious threats to reproductive rights and health in the Volunteer State. Voters approved Amendment One by a margin of 53-47%, erasing language in the state constitution that defines abortion as a fundamental right. The state legislature now has the authority to “enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”
Though the Amendment does not immediately change any abortion laws in Tennessee, lawmakers have already announced their intention to advance abortion restrictions when the legislative session begins in January. These could include dangerous and restrictive policies like the building regulations and physician admitting privileges in Texas (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider laws, known as TRAP laws), the mandatory 72-hour waiting period in Missouri, or the 20-week bans that limit abortion access in nine states. And, as Amendment One dictates, the legislature would not be required to include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is in danger. Read more…
With a few days’ distance from the 2014 midterm elections, we are beginning to put the results of this election in context — for what it means for Congress, state legislatures, state laws and of course our work to advance social justice in the United States. The day after the election, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center released a statement welcoming the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives and noting our long history of working successfully with members on both sides of the aisle to advance shared priorities. We look forward to another exciting chapter in Washington, D.C. and in the states.
On Thursday, Rachel Laser moderated a conversation between RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Executive Vice President and Director of Policy Nancy Zirkin and RAC Senior Advisor Michael Horowitz. To watch the exciting conversation, visit our Election Day resources page, or watch it here:
Yesterday, along with the US Senate and House of Representative elections and numerous elections on the state level, voters in Washington state chose not to stand silently by any longer in the face of gun violence. Ballot Initiative I-594 to institute universal background checks including for private sales in Washington passed by an overwhelming majority of 59.7% while the counter-initiative that would have prevented background checks in Washington State failed resoundingly. Laws similar to this one have been passed by other states, including last year in Maryland where the new law has already led to a significant drop in gun deaths state-wide.
In the wake of yesterday’s election results, we welcome the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives that will enhance America’s safety and well-being. In Washington State, all gun purchases will now require a common-sense background check. Thanks to Nebraska voters, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $9 by 2016. In fact, voters approved minimum wage increases in four states nationwide, all by wide margins. And in Massachusetts, voters said “yes” to Question 4, allowing workers at companies with 11 or more employees to earn paid sick leave. In each of these states, Reform rabbis and congregants working with the Religious Action Center’s staff were key to the initiatives’ passage – offering sermons, publishing op-eds, speaking with colleagues and friends, and voting.
To learn more about our work on economic justice issues (including paid sick days and minimum wage) and the Jewish values that underpin our advocacy and programming, be sure to visit our issue page.
The Reform Movement has a long and storied history of advocating for civil rights, from our engagement in the Civil Rights Movement, to the fact that we are intimately acquainted with the effects of bigotry. Our ancestors knew both the continuing indignities of second-class citizenship and the constant fear of xenophobic violence. Our history teaches us that discrimination against any members of a community threatens the security of the entire community. Learn more about our work on civil rights, including election reform and voting rights.
Also, don’t forget to join our post-election briefing today, November 6, at 1:30 p.m. as our panel will discuss different perspectives on the prospects for critical human and civil rights issues in the upcoming Congress. Join in live here.
Over the past couple of months, my colleagues and I have written about the barriers that prevent many Americans from voting. From voter ID laws to cuts in early voting, minorities are being disproportionately affected by changing voter laws. In addition, people experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and transgender Americans face additional barriers to voting. On top of all of these groups, people with disabilities also face unique challenges to voting in America.