Election season is in full swing. Voters in Michigan have begun receiving their absentee ballots, lawns are becoming increasingly crowded with signs showing support for various candidates and it is nearly impossible to watch television without seeing an ad or hearing about the latest election-related news.
This year’s General Election will be like no other. Given COVID-19, a record number of voters are expected to vote early or by mail. In fact, according to the New York Times, more than 65.5 million absentee ballots have been requested or sent to voters in 32 states and the District of Columbia.
Naturally, with more people voting by mail, there are questions. Will the recent issues with the postal service affect ballot delivery? How long after November 3 could it take to finalize votes? Will some ballots and results end up being fought over in court?
With so much uncertainty, there are ways for the general public to act and help make a difference by way of ensuring voters rights: getting educated and mobilizing.
In late August, the non-partisan Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) hosted a webinar in conjunction with the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, which it runs in partnership with the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity. Speakers at “Your Vote Is Critical: Making Sure it Counts in November” presented information on voter’s rights and information, civil discourse related to the election and more. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from Rev. Kenneth Flowers, Pastor, Great New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, who shared the voting concerns of the African American community; and Ariana Mentzel, Managing Director, Detroit Center for Civil Discourse, who provided tips on how to best handle conversations with friends, families and acquaintances of differing opinions.
Voting Rights Advocate Wendy Wagenheim headlined the program, sharing vital information on important dates and questions people should be thinking about whether they are voting by mail or in person. A full recording of the program can be viewed here and many of her tips have been included in JCRC/AJC’s Voting in Michigan guide.
“Fulfilling our civic responsibility is one of the highest and loftiest goals of a Jewish citizen,” said Phil Neuman, JCRC/AJC’s Treasurer and co-chair of the organization’s Government Relations Committee, along with Vice President Ruby Robinson. “We believe that no responsibility is more important than casting your vote for the candidates of your choice. That is why we hosted ‘Your Vote is Critical’ with the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity. To make sure that everyone is informed and has a plan for voting in the upcoming election. Our Committee will continue to focus on this fundamental right until the election and beyond.”
Candidate-specific information also was disseminated, via email, by the organization through videos submitted by candidates for U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Oakland County Executive and Oakland County Prosecutor. While not every candidate participated, each was well received and can be viewed on JCRC/AJC’s YouTube page.
JCRC/AJC also is working to activate volunteers in a safe, socially distant manner. Recently, they partnered with a non-partisan nonprofit whose nation-wide campaign is aimed at voter engagement through voter registration, check-your-vote activities, texting information on how to vote, sharing educational content and more.
When JCRC/AJC put out the call for volunteers, Ellen Starr, a member of Congregation B’nai Moshe’s Tikkun Olam committee, signed up. The committee, who decided to take up voter engagement as one of their fall initiatives, hopes to reach nonvoters and encourage them to register and, ultimately, vote.
“Justice only happens when people are heard. As a group, we wanted to make sure that every single person realizes that they have a voice,” said Starr.
“I feel like I didn’t have an option to not help out with this election. Over the upcoming weeks, I will be serving as a team captain, engaging with around 600 targeted moms in metropolitan Detroit. The training I receive through this program also will allow me to pass knowledge onto my team so we can work together to connect with our target group.”
In the upcoming weeks, JCRC/AJC also will be looking into ways of mobilizing volunteers on Election Day which is Tuesday, November 3.
Said Michael Kuper, who is staffing JCRC/AJC’s voting advocacy and activism efforts, “Our organization understands that, for our democracy to function at the highest level, it requires an active, engaged, and educated citizenry. For that reason, we are proud to provide the community with multi-faceted get-out-the-vote and day-of volunteer options.”