With Election Day less than two months away, organizations of all kinds are encouraging citizens to get out the vote. In Athens, Hillel UGA is among them.
Hillel UGA is a local branch of an international Jewish student organization and a center for over 1,000 Jewish undergraduate and graduate students. According to its website, its mission is “to enrich the lives of these individuals so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.”
Hillel International powers MitzVote, a Jewish version of TurboVote, which is a website that provides tools for voter registration and participation. The name is derived from the Hebrew word “mitzvot” which are guidelines for “how to lead a righteous Jewish life,” according to the MitzVote FAQ.
“There are 613 mitzvot. We consider voting the 614th,” says MitzVote.
MitzVote is partnering with the digital platform Motivote, which is geared toward college students, to help minimize barriers to voting by encouraging students via methods of friendly competition and social accountability.
Motivote allows teams for Hillel branches to organize and follow through steps in the voting process. Participants can follow steps to earn points, which can be redeemed for prizes such as Apple Airpods, free subscription periods to streaming services such as Disney+ and Spotify, gift cards and discounts at select online stores.
Motivote can be used by any student, even those not a part of Hillel.
Ellie Reingold is a member of Hillel UGA’s Tzedek Committee, which is composed of “students that want to give back and better the world,” according to Hillel UGA’s website.
“I think it’s important that students feel their vote really counts…and that even if they don’t get the outcome that they want, participating in democracy is fundamental to preserving it,” Reingold said, “but sometimes it just comes down to the fact that people are busy, or forgetful, and in that case having more tangible motivation…can be really helpful.”
Reingold referenced the Jewish ideals of Tzedek and Tikkun Olam, which she defined respectively as “justice” and “repairing the world” and how voting ties into them.
“It’s our responsibility as Jews to do what we can to make the world a better, more just place for everyone, and voting for change is absolutely a part of that,” Reingold said.
In addition to using Motivote, Reingold said Hillel UGA is encouraging voter participation in other avenues. Though the group is still in the planning phase, she mentioned creating support systems against voter purges and reducing confusion about polling locations.
Reingold also expressed an interest in providing candidate information and discussion forums, but Hillel’s nonpartisanship imparts a challenge on that front.
Polling place closures and the uncertainty of the U.S. Postal Service were other concerns Reingold raised, and she hopes Motivote will motivate people to register and vote early to ensure their ballots are counted.