As 2018 began, JOIN asked itself how it could build on our national ROAR training to have the greatest impact in 2018. At the time, 1.4 million Floridians could not vote due to a felony disenfranchisement provision in the Florida state constitution. In Florida, over 20,000 Jews and one in five African Americans were denied the right to vote. These individuals had committed crimes and paid their debts to society, yet lacked this basic civil right. Formerly incarcerated people had built a campaign to win it back through a ballot amendment, and looked for allies to support their struggle.
Research rapidly made it clear the importance of Amendment four in Florida, how tight the final margin was likely to be, for victory or defeat, and that the sizeable Jewish voting population, including moderate voters, made Florida a place where Jewish communities would have a major impact, either by voting for the amendment or by either voting against it or not voting for it at all.
JOIN for Justice was called to serve as the trainer, coach, and strategist to help other Jewish organizations and leaders do their best work, in coalition for other communities, to make the world more just and fair. JOIN chose to partner with the Religious Action Center and the National Council of Jewish Women to support a network of rabbis and Jewish community leaders to organize their communities in support of Amendment Four. JOIN provided them the support that they needed, through training, coaching, strategizing, and digital media support, to be most successful in this campaign. JOIN engaged in the campaign local Jewish Community Relations Council; ALEPH, a Lubavitch organization that worked with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Jews and reached out to 25,000 Orthodox Jewish voters, and the Anti-Defamation League of Florida, which became heavily involved.
We built a strategy that would remind Jews of the direct connection between our faith tradition and our obligation to support second chances for everyone. Between our focused in-person organizing and broader digital campaign, we ultimately reached over 180,000 Floridian Jews in the months before the election.
On November 6, 2018, Amendment Four was passed, restoring the right to vote for these individuals, and changing politics in Florida — and in the United States — forever. It was the third largest enfranchisement in U.S. history. Additionally, many local leaders in Miami are more prepared to effectively organize with local partners in the future.
Describing JOIN’s critical role in this campaign, the Religious Action Center’s Senior Organizer Rabbi Suzanne Stone said “[JOIN Senior Organizer] Jeannie’s experience as a veteran organizer was invaluable to my ability as a RAC organizer to help us strategize the best way to engage reform clergy and activate their congregations. Our joint trainings and her mentorship helped me develop my own skills and confidence as an organizer. Also without her time, I would not have been able to focus on a media strategy and I’m not sure without the media strategy we would have had 4-5 op eds published in Florida by reform clergy.”
See all the videos that JOIN produced for the Jewish Coalition for Amendment 4 here.