WASHINGTON – Over 80 U.S. Jewish organizations are working together to ensure election integrity and back pro-democracy efforts ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The Jewish Partnership for Democracy, which features groups across ideological, denominational and geographic lines, aims to protect electoral democracy in the short term while helping rebuild a resilient democratic culture in the long term.
“What we often view as one federal election is really more like 3,000 local elections happening simultaneously across the country, all subject to their own rules and operating procedures,” said the group’s executive director, Aaron Dorfman.
The partnership comes as New York University Law School’s forum dedicated to national security, Just Security, stated that religious leaders play a role in ensuring election integrity while assessing the risk for post-election violence.
“When and how religious leaders and other influential voices across the political spectrum speak publicly about election[s] will help shape perceptions and expressions of public opinion,” the report noted.
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Dorfman said that Jewish institutions have resources and expertise to offer, noting that “with more than 2,000 state-level bills proposing changes to election infrastructure around the country, election officials and voters alike are struggling to navigate this contentious and polarizing season.”
The partnership has zeroed in on five strategies aimed at ensuring free, fair, safe and accessible elections.
The first is focused on poll workers, specifically aimed at recruiting nonpartisan individuals who can ensure smooth election administration while countering explicitly partisan actors.
The second pillar is aimed at polling places, encouraging Jewish institutions with buildings to partner with county registrars to offer their space to increase access to the public. This is particularly relevant for Jewish buildings near college campuses, where only 10 percent of those eligible have access to on-campus early voting.
Doron Krakow, president and CEO of the JCC Association of North America, said his organization “couldn’t be prouder” to have joined the partnership.
“Many JCCs across the country serve as polling stations and JCC staff, volunteers and members, with the support of JCC leaders, will take time off to be poll workers and polling place observers – as part of the Jewish community’s commitment to America’s great democratic tradition,” Krakow said.
The partnership will further dedicate work to election protection, mobilizing nonpartisan volunteers to protect voter access though the Election Protection network consisting of more than 300 local, state and national partners.
To that end, the partnership will offer legal support, recruiting lawyers to volunteer pro-bono services for election officials targeted by new election laws meant to hamper their work through the Election Official Legal Defense Network.
“We are asking Jewish leaders and institutions to imagine an America 40 years from now in which democracy is booming,” Dorfman said. “What must each of our institutions have contributed for this to come to pass? How might we have changed course, reallocated resources and adjusted rhetoric to achieve this?” he asked.
“We are creating a generative, hopeful space based on the assumption that positive evolution is possible and that American democracy – flawed and experimental as it is – is both savable and worth saving.
"Finally, they will put emphasis on local relationship building, helping build trust between community leaders and election officials prior to elections via tours of facilities and invitations to speak to local audiences,” Dorfman said.
Eli Greenstein Jacober, the director of campaigns at Repair the World, said he believed that volunteers “have an important role to play in ensuring free, fair and safe elections.” He added that his organization (whose name is an English translation of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam) “encourages volunteers to live their Jewish values to power the polls, support voter turnout, engage civically to directly support their communities to ensure every eligible American can safely cast their ballot by November 8, 2022.”
Forty-five percent of Jewish voters say the future of democracy is their most important issue when heading to the polls in November, according to a recent poll by the Jewish Electorate Institute.
In addition, 74 percent said they closely followed the congressional hearings on the January 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump-supporting election deniers, with 57 percent saying the hearings made them more motivated to vote in November.