Democracy depends on ensuring that every voter has an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot, free from restrictions that have a discriminatory impact. There is, perhaps, no more fundamental right in a democracy than the vote.
ADL and Voting Rights
ADL supports and promotes nonpartisan efforts to encourage voting and make it more accessible for all U.S. citizens, so that everyone is able to take part in this critical aspect of our democracy. This is especially important at this time, as we work to overcome obstacles that could negatively impact voter turnout, including not only COVID-19 but also a surge of extremist activity and a legacy of systemic racism.
With its historic commitment to securing justice and fair treatment to all that dates back to ADL’s founding more than a century ago, ADL began speaking out about voting rights as early as 1965, opposing efforts by public officials to subvert the voting rights of Black people and urging the federal government make every effort to secure these rights for all. In 2011, ADL reaffirmed its commitment to this issue, adopting a powerful resolution in favor of ensuring fair ballot access; opposing efforts to restrict ballot requirements unless there is substantiated, compelling evidence of voter fraud; and opposing ballot-access requirements that can be shown to disproportionately impact any specific group of eligible voters. The resolution also opposed intimidation and harassment of voters at the polls.
The 2020 Elections
The 2020 elections are vulnerable to a variety of challenges to many Americans’ right to vote. New obstacles to voting could have a discriminatory impact on specific communities, potentially suppressing voter turnout. The COVID-19 pandemic not only underscores and amplifies long-existing inequities disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities, but makes the decision to vote potentially a life or death matter. Once everyday issues and decisions, including whether to wait in crowded lines and rooms to vote and whether voting-by-mail will be easily accessible, now threaten the health and life of many Americans.
Extremists online and off seek to manipulate and exploit fear and anger, potentially impacting voter turnout and access to the ballot. Conspiracy theories about voter fraud — many of which target Jewish philanthropists, elected officials, and reporters — have also been surging. Divisive rhetoric and actions from elected officials can also sow confusion and fear, particularly in a time of pandemic and social unrest, which in turn threaten to misinform voters and suppress voting. When, as in the United States today, a society and electorate are highly polarized, issues of great importance – such as the fight against antisemitism – can become weaponized in hyper-partisan debates, sowing division and strife within and between communities. These factors, taken together, pose a serious risk of creating discord and doubt about the fairness of the 2020 election and its ultimate outcome.
ADL actively engages with appropriate partner organizations on ways to ensure equal and fair access to the ballot during a pandemic, including universal mail-in voting, election protection, early voting, and simplified procedures for voter registration.
ADL’s Center of Extremism monitors extremist threats on the ground and online, and the Center for Technology and Society analyzes online hate related to the election as well. While studiously maintaining our status as a nonpartisan organization that does not support or oppose any candidate for office, ADL continues to condemn manifestations of antisemitism, racism or other forms of bigotry that surface in political campaigns. There should be no place for bigotry or hate in the process by which Americans choose their elected representatives entrusted with building a just and inclusive society.
--Last updated, July 2020