Throughout history, Jews have unfortunately been denied rights, including the most fundamental — like voting — too often. Now that we have that right, we take it rather seriously. Voting might not be a mitzva, but it’s certainly any good Jew’s obligation in a democratic society. As Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l put it, voting is an act of hakaras hatov — or gratitude — to this just government, and it is incumbent on every observant Jew to exercise that right.Currently the Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Shabbos, January 23, thus disenfranchising anyone who observes Shabbos. Today, a plethora of Jewish organizations, including the Orthodox Union, have banded together in asking that those who are Shomrei Shabbos to be allowed to vote in Iowa’s 2010 caucuses.
The following is a letter sent to both the Iowa Democrats and the GOP:
September 16, 2009
Chair, Iowa Democratic Party
5661 Fleur Drive Des Moines, IA 50321
Chair, Iowa Republican Party
621 E 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
Dear Mr. Kiernan and Mr. Strawn:
A central premise of American politics is the enfranchisement of every citizen. The Jewish community has actively campaigned for fair and equal representation for the voices of majority and minorities alike, the protection of civil rights of all people and unencumbered access for all to the processes that choose our elected leaders.
Our nation has thrived because of the tremendous opportunities afforded to people from diverse racial, ethnic, religious and other backgrounds. For this reason, we are distressed to learn that the Democratic and Republican parties of Iowa have decided to hold their 2010 caucuses on a Saturday.
The decision to move the Iowa political party caucuses to a Saturday effectively disenfranchises members of the Jewish community. Jews who observe the Sabbath could not work on caucus day to support their candidates of choice. Worse, since caucuses do not allow for absentee voting, there would be essentially no opportunity to participate in this important process. This is utterly inconsistent with the values of our pluralistic democracy.
Voting and participation in the electoral process is a cornerstone of any democracy. It is the highest civic duty most people ever undertake. Saturday caucuses will force members of the Iowa Jewish community to choose between their faith and their civic duties.
Given the important role Iowa has in our nation’s electoral contests and their leadership position in serving as a role model to other states, we respectfully ask and hope the Democratic and Republican parties to reverse this ill‐considered this move.