Passover primaries: Don't miss out on voting. Request a mail-in ballot now

After Pennsylvania lawmakers failed to change the date of its primary elections from the first day of Passover, April 23, Jewish agencies in the state focused their efforts on getting the word out to make sure members of the Jewish community request mail-in ballots and mail in their votes on time. 

The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley had a table set up in the JCC lobby all day on February 27 to help community members request mail-in ballots. State government forms were available for requesting a ballot and for designating someone as your legal agent to help you to obtain and return your filled-out ballot, as well as for registering to vote. Federation staffers provided help filling out these forms to anyone who wanted it.

The problem with the election date is that Jewish people, depending on their particular religious beliefs, may be restricted from taking part in certain activities, including voting-related activites, on certain holidays. The first two days of Passover—beginning at sundown on Monday, April 22, and continuing through sundown on Wednesday, April 24—would be included.

Four states originally had primaries scheduled for April 23. But Delaware, Rhode Island, and Maryland all were persuaded to move their elections to different dates. Pennsylvania is the only state with a primary still scheduled on that day.

“It’s frustrating the legislature never settled on a date that’s not in conflict,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt, an appointee of Governor Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish. “The governor is determined to do all we can to make sure Jewish voters and all voters can make their voices heard on election day.”

The same restrictions that could keep a Jewish voter from going to the polls on Passover also could affect poll workers and polling places. Since there’s no simple way to find out whether individual voting sites would be missing poll workers, Schmidt said, the government has to make inquiries, and then try to find replacements as needed.

If polling places need to be closed, at a JCC, for example, the county would find an alternative location. “It would send a mailing to every voter letting them know that their polling place has moved,” said Schmidt. “It would also post at the former location to let them know that their polling location has moved.” 

Anyone with questions about the election or who requires help with voting and mail-in ballots should contact the Department of State at 877-VOTESPA.