Secretary of the Commonwealth discusses efforts to help Jews during Passover primary
2024 ElectionPrimary is April 23, the first day of Passover

Secretary of the Commonwealth discusses efforts to help Jews during Passover primary

April 16 is the last day to apply for a mail ballot.

(Photo courtesy of Pexels)
(Photo courtesy of Pexels)

As a recent news release from the Pennsylvania Department of State makes clear, April 8 is the last day to register to vote in the state’s primary. April 16 is the last day to apply for a mail ballot. April 23 is primary Election Day, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. And April 23 at 8 p.m. is the deadline for your county election office to receive your mail ballot.

As Jews already know, April 23 is also the first full day of Passover. Therefore, halachically observant Jews cannot go to the polls to vote that day. The situation also may impact Jewish institutions that serve as polling places and Jewish poll workers.

Pennsylvania is the only state with an election on April 23. Delaware, Rhode Island and Maryland moved their primaries that were originally scheduled for that date.

Pennsylvania’s Jewish governor, Josh Shapiro, supported moving the election. Democrats and Republicans in the Pennsylvania General Assembly did the same. Yet the bill never moved.

Democrats in the House tried to add election reforms such as increasing the number of canvassing days for political candidates. Republicans in the Senate just tried to pass a bill that would have changed the date. Shapiro did not take a position on either side’s proposals.

So now, the administration is trying to help affected Jews as best it can. Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt explained how it would do so.

Polling Places

Jewish community centers, synagogues and other institutions are “sometimes used as polling places on election day,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt used the Germantown Jewish Centre in Mount Airy near Philadelphia as a hypothetical.

Al Schmidt (Courtesy of the PA Department of State)
“Let’s say it’s not available on Election Day. That coordination is done by the county. In advance of Election Day, the county would find an alternative location that is wheelchair accessible,” he said. “It would send a mailing to every voter letting them know that their polling place has moved. It would also post at the former location to let them know that their polling location has moved.”

Polling places change for “all sorts of reasons,” Schmidt said. Maybe there’s a water main break on the road, construction or a parking lot that needs repaving.

“Every election, you have polling places that have to be moved for one reason or another,” Schmidt said. “It is a routine process where every polling place is contacted in advance of every election to make sure they can be used.”

Poll Workers

“You have to do outreach to poll workers uniformly because you don’t know if there are poll workers in some part of a county that may not be able to work due to a religious conflict,” Schmidt said. “There’s no universe of Jewish poll workers.”

That’s why the administration is going to use traditional media and social media to get the word out, according to Schmidt. The state will put out graphics on social media that others can share and advertisements in print and digital media. It will also use federations, synagogues and other Jewish networks to spread the word.


Schmidt wants to make sure that voters are aware of the “options available to them.” For halachically observant Jews, the option is to visit Then fill out the mail-in request application and get your ballot in by the deadline.

“It’s frustrating the legislature never settled on a date that’s not in conflict,” Schmidt said. “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 administration will use a similar approach involving social media, traditional media and word of mouth for voters as it will for poll workers, according to Schmidt. The Department of State’s news release also offers a phone number, 1-877-VOTESPA, for anyone with questions. PJC

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

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