As many as 50 members of The Temple will spend all or part of Election Day in Macon-Bibb County with a Reform-led effort to safeguard voting rights in the central Georgia municipality.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Nitzavim voter protection and participation project, launched in mid-August with the NAACP, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and other partners, has identified Macon-Bibb as a place where voting rights are particularly threatened.
This is the first presidential election since 1964 that Georgia hasn’t faced special federal scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act, and Georgia was one of three states, along with Kansas and Alabama, that sought permission (blocked in September by a federal appeals court) to require proof of citizenship from would-be voters registering by mail with a federal form.
Macon-Bibb is drawing extra attention because of an effort to move a polling place used by a high percentage of black voters to the Sheriff’s Office.
Rabbi David Spinrad of The Temple said such seemingly colorblind means can be used in places such as Macon for racist ends. Moving a polling place out of a neighborhood can serve as a de facto poll tax by adding the expense of transportation and lost work time.
He and at least two other Temple rabbis, Peter Berg and Loren Filson Lapidus, are driving to Bibb County with their congregants to put in one or more shifts watching the polls after getting online training.
A group from Temple Sinai also plans to be there, the RAC said, as do some Georgia State University students, Rabbi Steve Fox, who heads the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Temple Kol Emeth member Blair Marks, the president of Women of Reform Judaism.
Members of the Macon-Bibb NAACP chapter will join the Jewish visitors in keeping watch.
“This is nonpartisan work,” Rabbi Spinrad said. “We just want people to have the vote and to be able to use it. It’s not my business how they vote.”