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Urge Senators to Pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act

In November 2020, despite the pandemic and a patchwork of barriers to the ballot box across the country, more than 159 million Americans voted in the elections, the highest turnout seen in over a century. However, since then, some state elected officials have used a weakened Voting Rights Act to create more barriers to voting.

The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act would restore critical protections against racially discriminatory laws and move us toward a democracy that responds to the needs and priorities of voters. The right to vote is fundamental in a democracy and we must ensure that elections are accessible for all by passing this critical piece of legislation.

Join us in telling your Senator to support democracy by passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.

Background

The United States has a long history of restricting the right to vote. However, due to persistent advocacy, largely led by People of Color, women, and people with disabilities, the right to vote has been expanded over the centuries.  However, significant barriers remain in many states and a growing number of states are now restricting Americans’ ability to cast their ballots safely and freely.

Over the past two decades, Americans have increasingly encountered new barriers to voting, including removing people from voter rolls, polling place closures and changes, and strict voter ID laws. Critically, these barriers disproportionately restrict the freedom to vote for members of Communities of Color, people with disabilities, older Americans, caregivers, lower-income Americans, young Americans, and new Americans.

These restrictions were made easier under the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act.

The Freedom to Vote: John R Lewis Act would:

  • Increase opportunities for eligible Americans to easily register to vote in federal elections through online voter registration, automatic registration when interacting with government agencies, and same-day voter registration;
  • Expand early in-person voting and voting by mail to ensure that every American has equal access to these options no matter where they live;
  • Restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated people who have completed their sentences;
  • Make Election Day a federal holiday;
  • End partisan gerrymandering for redistricting U.S. House districts and ensuring that all states comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 so that voters pick their leaders rather than leaders picking their voters;
  • Invest in modernizing America’s election systems and ensuring votes are recorded on paper ballots that can be accurately recounted;
  • Modernize the preclearance formula to cover states with a pattern of discrimination that puts voters at risk;
  • Protect voters from the types of voting changes most likely to discriminate against People of Color and language minorities; and
  • Require that jurisdictions make voting changes public and transparent, among other provisions.

The filibuster remains a barrier that obstructs legislative business in the Senate, has prevented the passage of this bill, and upholds systemic racism and white supremacy. In the American political tradition, the Senate filibuster should be a means to ensure the minority’s voice is heard and, in theory, promote deliberation, bipartisanship, and compromise. To pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, the filibuster must be reformed. Specifically, this includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Restoring the “talking filibuster;”
  • Eliminating duplicative filibuster opportunities;
  • Ending the practice of silent holds;
  • Expanding opportunities for the minority to offer amendments; and
  • Considering a lower number of senators needed to invoke cloture under certain circumstances.

We urge Senators to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R Lewis Act. As Americans continue to face barriers to exercise their right to vote, we must take steps to ensure that every voice is heard, and elections reflect the will of the people.   

Tell your Senators to support the Freedom to Vote: John R Lewis Act to protect Americans’ right to vote.

Jewish Values

Jewish tradition teaches us that the selection of leaders is not a privilege but a collective responsibility. Rabbi Yitzchak taught that “a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud, B’rachot 55a). In keeping with the insight of this teaching, it is the duty of all who cherish democracy to ensure that all Americans are afforded the opportunity to vote and have their votes counted. The Reform Jewish Movement, long believing that the freedom to vote is fundamental to American democracy, strongly supports legislation that protects the rights of all Americans to exercise their right to vote.

Jewish tradition also celebrates the meaningful exchange of ideas and respect for minority viewpoints. The Talmud even goes so far as to preserve the opposing and minority opinions in its text, alongside the consensus viewpoint. We recognize there may be truth and wisdom in opposing views and we value wrestling with and trying to reconcile such conflicting opinions. Likewise, a healthy democracy requires the constant balancing of majority and minority rights and voices. Filibuster reform the balances the constructive impact of debate and the ability of the minority to participate meaningfully in the legislative process with the need for the Senate to advance legislation effectively than eliminating it has the potential to rebalance majority and minority rights in the Senate.

For More Information

For more information on this issue, visit the RAC’s Voting Rights page or contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Israel Harris at 202.387.2800.

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