Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice is committed to working to perfect the promise of America as a land of liberty and opportunity for all. We act out of love and respect for our fellow human beings, and believe that our Jewish values, traditions, texts, history, faith and culture can help light a path to solving America’s most pressing issues. We believe that the fates of all Americans are intertwined and that when the rights of some are trampled, the rights of all are compromised.
As a minority people who have survived oppression, persecution and dispersion, we recognize and empathize with the suffering of all marginalized communities. This historical experience has imparted to us respect for the principle of equality before the law and the importance of our vibrant constitutional democracy.
While American society and policy have treated far too many people as strangers, at its best, the government of the United States is one of, by and for the people. We are proud, however, that whether as marginalized, immigrant outsiders or as powerful, privileged citizens, Jews have been extraordinarily well represented among the ranks of those who sought to hold America to its promise of liberty and justice for all. Among the legacies of which American Jews are most proud is our community's contribution to the civil rights movement. The Voting Rights Act is perhaps the preeminent legal pillar ensuring that the sacred right to vote is not undermined.
The Supreme Court's recent ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, eliminates critical protections for voters in states and localities that have a long history and continuing record of discriminating against voters on the basis of race. This ruling effectively suspends the use of one of the most effective tools that the federal government had against racial discrimination in voting—Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 has played a critical role in ensuring that communities with a documented history of voter discrimination could not reinstate such practices.
Indeed, since July's ruling was handed down, we have seen a flurry of state- and local-level efforts to restrict the voting rights of eligible Americans. These efforts have included imposing onerous voter ID laws, impairing voter registration, reducing early voting opportunities and further restricting the voting rights of persons with criminal convictions who have served their sentences. Many of these restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the elderly, the poor and communities of color. These changes weaken an already dysfunctional voting system, which in 2012 saw millions of Americans standing in long lines for hours at crowded polling stations.
We call upon Congress to immediately consider and enact a new formula to ensure that jurisdictions which seek to implement discriminatory voting practices are prevented from doing so. Voting is a sacred right and responsibility of all Americans; it is fundamental to safeguarding all of our other civil rights and liberties. The Jewish community knows from our own history that societies are most vibrant, free and fair when democratic institutions are strong. Consequently, every effort must be made to reduce voting barriers and to encourage all eligible Americans to participate in this most basic and essential institution of our democracy.
This resolution was composed by the Policy Committee and approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.