Rabbinical group calls for unrestricted vote by mail during coronavirus pandemic


(JTA) — As some states debate whether voting by mail should be allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic, one group of rabbis has upped its support for such equal access to the ballot box.

It is not the first time that the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, has called on state legislatures to remove unnecessary and restrictive barriers to voting.

“At this unprecedented time in modern history, the Rabbinical Assembly supports the unencumbered right to participate in local and federal elections with vote-by-mail, online, over the Internet, and absentee ballots with no requirement to provide a reason nor so-called valid excuse,” the Rabbinical Assembly said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We reaffirm that voting is a cornerstone of American democracy and that all eligible voters must have free and equal access to cast their ballots and that all votes be counted equally.

“As we self-isolate and quarantine to stave off the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundamental Jewish imperative to preserve life, Pikuah Nefesh, must apply to our electoral contests. In this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever for elections to take place safely, securely and conveniently and for us to uphold the mitzvah of responsibility for and to each other.”

On Monday, an open letter signed by 35 Missouri rabbis from across the religious spectrum encouraged Jewish voters to take advantage of a religious exemption clause in the state’s voting rules to cast ballots by mail for the rescheduled statewide municipal elections on June 2.

In its March 2019 Resolution on Voting Rights, the Rabbinical Assembly called on state legislatures to remove unnecessary and restrictive barriers to voting, including liberalizing absentee ballot and vote-by-mail laws.

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