Pennsylvania’s primary remains on first day of Passover. How can observant Jews still vote?
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Election 2024A how-to for Jewish voters

Pennsylvania’s primary remains on first day of Passover. How can observant Jews still vote?

Halachically observant Jews will not be able to go to the polls on election day. But if you are one, you can still vote.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol building (Photo by New_Folder/iStockphoto.com)
The Pennsylvania State Capitol building (Photo by New_Folder/iStockphoto.com)

Four states originally had primaries scheduled for April 23, the first full day of Passover. But Delaware, Rhode Island and Maryland all moved their elections to different dates.

Pennsylvania is the only state with a primary still scheduled then.

Going into the fall legislative session in Harrisburg, there was optimism that the General Assembly would move the date.

Except it wasn’t something they addressed.

Democrats in the House sank the bill by adding amendments such as eliminating the date requirement on mail ballots, according to Republicans. Republicans in the Senate ruined it by adding an amendment relating to voter identification, according to Democrats. Pennsylvania’s Jewish governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro, supported moving the primary but did not take a position on either side’s proposals.
“We had a deal on Monday, and then the deal fell apart,” said Jewish Rep. Abigail Salisbury, who represents the Pittsburgh-based 34th District, in November.

Now, halachically observant Jews will not be able to go to the polls on election day. But if you are one, you can still vote. Here’s how.

Visit Vote.PA.Gov

In all 67 Pennsylvania counties, you can vote by mail. Just visit vote.pa.gov.

Click Mail-in and Absentee Ballot.

Either hover over the tab at the top that says Voting in PA or scroll down to Popular on Vote.PA.Gov. In both places, you will see Mail-in and Absentee Ballot.

Click it.

Find the Ballot Request Application.

Scroll down to Quick Links and click Apply online for a mail-in or absentee ballot. That will take you to a screen that reminds you that you must be registered to vote and that your request for a mail ballot must be received by your county office by April 16 at 5 p.m.

Then scroll down and click the mail-in ballot paper application form in your language of choice.

Fill out the application

Either print the application and write in your information or type the info and then print it. Either way, you must then find the address for your county board of elections and mail it there.

All county election board addresses and phone numbers are on a list at the bottom of the application.

Vote!

If you get your application in by 5 p.m. on April 16, you will receive a ballot in the mail. Fill out the ballot, date it properly and send it back in by 8 p.m. on election night.

You can also deliver your ballot to your county’s board of elections office or drop it into a secure drop box in your home county. Check your county’s website for drop box locations.

The Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, the governor’s office and the Pennsylvania Department of State are working together to market this process, according to Hank Butler, the executive director of the PJC. They are hoping to provide a QR code to Jewish federations, synagogues and other organizations. A quick scan of it would take voters to vote.pa.gov.

Butler said the marketing push would likely begin around Feb. 1.

“We want to make sure everyone is notified to vote,” he said.

Jonathan Goldman, the chair of the PJC, also wants to emphasize that no one needs to wait. You can request your mail ballot now.

“I cannot wake up on election day and go get a mail-in ballot. At a minimum, you need to apply for a mail-in ballot,” he said.

The PJC is also going to work with federations to reach out to congregations and Jewish community centers that are signed up to serve as polling places.

“Will they wish to handle the primary election? Once we can gather information, hopefully by the end of January, we can work with the Department of State, and they can find alternative locations on election day,” Butler said.

The other group that may have been impacted by the Passover primary would have been halachically observant candidates. But Butler and other political insiders are not aware of any in the state. PJC

Jarrad Saffren writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication where this first appeared.

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