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Get Out the Vote: A Guide for First-Time Voters

Get Out the Vote: A Guide for First-Time Voters

With Election Day 2014 right around the corner (Tuesday, November 4), it's almost time to exercise your democratic freedom and vote in this important election!

This election cycle, vital political, economic and moral issues of concern to all Americans are at stake. As Jews and American citizens, we have an obligation to vote in the elections to ensure that our country’s policies at the local, state and national levels reflect our commitment to social justice. Every vote counts and plays a defining role in setting policy agendas.

In the last midterm election in 2010, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, more than a quarter of college students reported that they did not register to vote because they did not know where or how to register, or they missed the deadline. Studies show that young people (ages 18 to 29) could cast the critical votes in some U.S. Senate races, so it's vital that you make sure you're registered and ready to vote in these crucial elections.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Register to vote: Deadlines in most states are coming up fast! If you’re away at school or will be out of town for the election, you can vote absentee. You can also register to vote in the state where you attend college. Websites such as Long Distance Voter and Rock The Vote will direct you to your state’s voter registration and absentee voter information.
  • Educate yourself: Learn about which issues are most important to you and your candidates. Project Vote Smart provides excellent and non-partisan summaries of candidates, platforms, and ballot initiatives from the federal to local level. You can check out the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's blog for insights and updates on a variety of political and social issues through a Jewish lens.
  • Take to the Internet: Get out the vote on social media! Tweet @theRAC and at your friends with the hashtags #Vote2014 or #GOTV to share why voting matters to you, and we’ll share your response. You can also download our GOTV graphics toolkit so that your Facebook cover photo, Twitter posts, and more can help spread these resources.
  • Think locally: Get out the vote in your communities! This comprehensive GOTV Guide, has programming ideas for increasing voter participation on your campus, in your synagogue, or other community. If you are a college student, the Campus Vote Project provides toolkits specialized to help you get the word out to your fellow students.

You may be wondering, "How do Jewish values connect with participating in elections?" Our tradition teaches us that we have a collective responsibility to choose our leaders. Rabbi Hillel taught: Al tifros min hatzibur, “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:4). Rabbi Yitzchak also taught that “a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud, B’rachot 55a). This ethic of political participation has guided Jews to enthusiastically participate in the electoral process and is epitomized by traditionally strong Jewish voter turnout.

Take advantage of your right to vote and make your voice heard this election season!

Visit the RAC’s GOTV page to download our toolkit of resources, and read more on RACBlog about Voting Rights, Elections, and Campaign Finance Reform.

Melanie Fineman is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Melanie graduated in 2014 from Brown University, and is originally from Newton, MA, where she is a member of Temple Shalom.

Melanie Fineman
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