We are joining the Religious Action Center’s national effort to engage all congregations in reaching for 100% voter participation in the coming election. Read more about NJ congregations involved in this campaign.

“Our tradition teaches us that the process
of choosing leaders is not a privilege,
but a collective responsibility.”

— CCAR Resolution on Elections Reform, 2001

Campaign Overview

Our Civic Engagement Campaign continues to be a top priority.

For the legislative component of this campaign, we continue to educate and advocate for voting rights for those with convictions.

We are pleased to share that the Voting Rights Restoration bill (S2100/A3456) advanced out of the Appropriations Committee and will hopefully voted on by end of 2019.

We in RJVNJ have been advocating for passage of this bill; it now will restore rights to those on probation and parole (no longer includes those in current custody) — over 80,000 potential voters! Many thanks to the NJ Institute for Social Justice in pushing this forward.

For historical context and detail about this legislation, see this link: https://www.njisj.org/1844nomorereport2017

We will also be joining the Religious Action Center’s renewed national effort to engage all congregations in reaching for 100% voter participation in the coming election.

This is a nonpartisan campaign; we believe all should be empowered to vote, regardless of political affiliation. Through trainings and written materials, we are encouraging every congregation to form a team to help register voters, build commitment and community spirit around this civic right, and to follow-up to make sure people know how, where, and when to get to the polls.

We also encourage hosting candidate forums to build relationships and foster open discussion around issues that concern us as Reform Jews.

And we encourage partnering with interfaith or other community partners for even broader voter engagement impact!

If you would like to learn more about this campaign, please contact us at rjvoiceofnj@gmail.com.

Why this issue is important for our state?

  • Roughly 94,000 New Jersey residents are prohibited from voting because they are serving prison sentences or are on probation or parole
  • New Jersey’s first broad ban on voting by people with criminal convictions was written into the state’s 1844 Constitution, which also reinforced a policy, first adopted in 1807, that limited the vote to white men. The 1844 ban denied the right to vote to any person convicted of “blasphemy, treason, murder, piracy, arson, rape, sodomy, or the infamous crime against nature, committed with mankind or with beasts,” among other offenses. It lasted until 1970, when it was struck down by a federal judge as “totally irrational,”but lawmakers responded the next year by broadening the disenfranchisement statute to include anyone serving a sentence or on parole or probation.
  • Today in New Jersey, black adults are 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than white adults — the largest racial disparity of any state in the country. As a result, black people comprise only 15 percent of the state’s population but about half of those who have lost their voting rights due to criminal convictions, according to the report.
  • Overall, more than 5 percent of New Jersey’s black voting age population is ineligible to vote.

Why this issue is important to us as Reform Jews?

“Our tradition teaches us that the process of choosing leaders is not a privilege, but a collective responsibility. The Sage Hillel taught “Al tifros min hatzibur, Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirke Avot 2:5). Rabbi Yitzhak taught that “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a).

This ethic of political participation has guided Jews to enthusiastically participate in the American electoral process and is epitomized by our traditionally strong voter turnout. Jews also have placed a priority on voter education and registration efforts.” -CCAR Resolution on Elections Reform 2001

What do we want our legislators to do (“The Ask”)?

Vote Yes/Cosponsor S2100/A3456, expanding voting rights to those with convictions as a civil rights issue.

Voting Rights Restoration Bill – 2019 Advocacy Day Materials

Discussion Guide | Background Info | More Info | Text of Bill | Zoom Mtg. Recording