Your vote matters: Cast your ballot Nov. 4 — or else

The election is Tuesday. In honor of this, we bring you a little Jewish guilt.

Vote — or else.

Voting is an accessible pathway to civic life, and as Jews, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and cast our ballots.

Every vote matters.

Consider that the 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes (about the same as the number of Jews in the state of Wyoming). In 2004, Washington’s gubernatorial race was decided by 133 votes. In 2006, Connecticut’s 2nd District congressional race was decided by 83 votes.

Not a huge fan of either candidate, and would rather pass? Well, not choosing is making a choice, and a poor one at that. Your silence looks like apathy to us.

Apathy is unacceptable in the Jewish tradition. Rabbi Hillel once said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

While Rabbi Hillel was not specifically talking about elections, he was telling us to be engaged in the world around us. He’s reminding us that Judaism expects us to work to create a better world. The simplest way to do some world-repairing (or tikkun olam) is to vote.

Beyond the candidates, consider that California has 12 ballot initiatives that require your attention. Should chicken farms be required to have cages big enough so chickens can spread their wings? Do you think penalties for nonviolent drug offenses should be lowered? Must teenagers notify their parents before having an abortion?

But before you go to the polls, please take time to learn about the issues: Read your official voter information guides and get a variety of perspective from such organizations as the League of Women Voters and other nonpartisan groups.

Last week, we took a stand on Proposition 8, because it addresses a civil rights issue, and encouraged you to vote “no” — in favor of same-sex couples’ right to marry. But ultimately, you should vote for whom and what you think will advance democracy and make our state and nation stronger.

We can’t think of any good excuses for why you shouldn’t vote. And if you’re wavering, here’s a little more Jewish guilt for you.

If you have children, think of the poor example you’re setting for them if you don’t vote. Or, more broadly, how can you squander a privilege that so many around the world are denied?

If you don’t vote, then don’t complain about the outcome of the election.

But if you want any amount of credibility, get to the polls on Election Day.

Our country needs us — and our faith compels us — to vote on Tuesday.

Election '08: The Jewish Perspective