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In the 21st century, we shouldn't need to assert that the lives of people of color matter as much as those of their white counterparts. We shouldn't need to declare that the votes cast by people of color count in this election.
We shouldn't need to – but we do.
Rev. William Barber and NAACP President Cornell Brooks have asked us to build on our significant participation in America's Journey for Justice last summer by protecting the right to vote this election year.
We’re saying “Yes" by launching Nitzavim: Standing Up for Voter Protection and Participation. Here's how we're doing our part and how you can lead the effort:
Because it’s Tu B'av, the Jewish holiday that celebrates love. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." In 2016, we are called to drive out the darkness of racial inequality through partnering with the NAACP, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the PICO National Network to protect the right to vote and remind decision makers of their responsibility to pursue the racial justice we seek.
N.C.'s voter suppression laws – swiftly enacted after the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act – are among the strictest in the nation. Same-day voter registration has been eliminated, early voting has been restricted, and onerous voter ID laws have been implemented. These actions disproportionately impact voters and communities of color.
Access to the ballot box should never depend on the color of one's skin. During the 2016 election – the first presidential election in more than 50 years without the protections of the Voting Rights Act – 16 states will have new voting restrictions on the books. The title of this year's NAACP Annual Gathering, held this week in Cincinnati, was, "Our Lives Matter. Our Votes Count." To help ensure they do, join Nitzavim in any way you can: by registering voters in North Carolina, registering and engaging voters in your own community, and recruiting lawyers from your congregation to protect the vote during the election.
We're honored to continue our racial justice journey, now through Election Day, in the nonpartisan work of protecting the right to vote for all Americans.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steven A. Fox is the chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner is the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.