A call to action: Make your voice heard

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Do you have election fatigue?

Left vs. right; accusations, fake news and lies; Russian and Chinese misinformation; sorting through mixed and confusing messages.

Are you ready to shut down and tune out?

Well, dear readers, don’t abandon ship yet! With weeks left in this most contentious election season, now is not the time to succumb to all the noise. And it’s certainly not the time to abandon exercising the most basic of our democratic rights.

We live in a country where we are blessed with a lot of important rights and freedoms. One of those is our vote. It’s not just a right; it’s an obligation.

But this is not a political column, advocating for or against this or that candidate. We strive to be nonpartisan at Jewish Rhode Island. Left, right and everything in between – we advocate for all our readers and believe in presenting multiple viewpoints on important topics. And as part of a nonprofit organization, we cannot advocate for any one candidate. That’s one of the rules for a 501(c)(3).

And I’m not even interested in telling you who to vote for (and please never ever ask me who I voted for) or even whether you should vote in person or by mail. I am, however, telling you not to ignore your duty to vote. I am telling you to make it your business to vote. 

Vote by mail, vote early or vote in person on Election Day: Do what’s right for you, as long as you vote. Don’t let anyone deter you from voting the way you want.

Looking at this through a Jewish lens, part of being Jewish is engaging in community. It’s a mitzvah to practice tikkun olam, repairing the world. In order to do this, we need to choose who we want to govern our country, our state and our local government.

I remember being so excited when I turned 18 and could register to vote. Many years later, I was shocked that my children’s friends didn’t rush out to register shortly after their 18th birthdays. My kids sure did. They know how important it is to exercise their right to vote.

Going to the polls on Election Day was even more exciting. If we couldn’t manage that, we made sure to get an absentee ballot.

As a college student, I remember receiving my ballot in the mail and opening it in my dorm room. I think it stretched from my hand, while I was standing up, to the floor. Nonetheless, I filled it out and sent it off. 

During the pandemic, voting has become a little more challenging, but it’s still far from difficult. This year, for example, my husband and I dutifully went to the polls as Massachusetts residents at the beginning of March. I picked up my ballot and went to the voting “booth” – only to come face to face with a communal marker. Now what? Did I really have to use a pen that was touched by many others? I’d never even considered this problem. My husband had thought of this and brought his own pen. I was stuck, however. So I voted – and then sanitized.  

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has taken on the issue of voting with its “Every Voice, Every Vote” initiative. This nonpartisan civic-engagement effort calls on all of us to make it easier for every American to “exercise their right to vote and to break down obstacles that shut some out of the voting booth.” Several of their programs involve engaging students.

For more information on the initiative and to see the many activities that you can participate in, go to https://rac.org/take-action/congregations-communities/rac-civic-engagement-campaign-2020.

Meanwhile, if you have questions about voting in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, here are some resources.

Rhode Island 

  • Voter registration deadline: Oct. 4 
  • Mail ballot application deadline: Oct. 13
  • Early in-person voting begins: Oct. 14
  • All mail ballots must be received by the State Board of Elections, 2000 Plainfield Pike, Cranston, RI 02921, by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3
  • Go to https://elections.ri.govfor links and forms 

Massachusetts 

  • Voter registration deadline: Oct. 24 
  • Municipalities must offer early voting Oct. 17-30. Check with local election websites for locations and the exact schedule in your area. 
  • Ballots sent by U.S. mail must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6. 
  • Go to https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ovrfor links and forms 

This is your call to action. Your vote counts!