Massachusetts Seeks to Schedule Primary to Avoid Religious Holiday Conflicts

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has yet to pick its September 2018 state primary date, given concerns about conflicts with key Jewish religious holidays. The Greenfield Recorder has more:

It is up to Secretary of State William Galvin to pick a date to hold Massachusetts’ 2018 state primary election and his request for public input hasn’t pointed to an obvious answer.

The date of the state primary is usually settled without much discussion or public attention, but this year Galvin is required by law to move the primary to an earlier date in September due to a conflict with a Jewish religious holiday.

The target date for the primary – 49 days before Election Day – is Tuesday, Sept. 18, but that date marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. One week earlier, Tuesday, Sept. 11, conflicts with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

State law requires Galvin to schedule the primary within seven days of the second Tuesday of September, this year Sept. 11, leaving the secretary a window from Sept. 4 until Sept. 18 to hold the election.

Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor who is challenging Galvin for the Democratic nomination to be secretary of state, said the secretary should take advantage of the scheduling conflict and plan to hold the statewide election on a weekend day.

“It’s an important opportunity to explore something new around a way to increase turnout and voter participation,” Zakim said. “The weekend of September 15 or 16 would make a lot of sense, and it’s something voting rights activists and civil right activists have long talked about to make it easier for people to vote…”

Massachusetts is the only state without a primary election date, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many states hold their primary election before September, the month when Massachusetts holds its primary…

At a public hearing Galvin scheduled for Tuesday morning, only one person testified. Galvin asked for public input on the primary date, but his office said the feedback was not overwhelmingly in favor of any one particular day.

If the state is set on the traditional Tuesday vote, September 4 is available – but that will be the day after Labor Day and the first day of school in many communities. Weekend voting is an option but may create other conflicts.

Regardless of the choice, however, the decision needs to be made soon. Choosing a primary date is obviously important for voters and candidates, but it’s important for election officials, too; they need a specific date in order to set their plans for Election Day – and to ensure that military and overseas voters receive their ballots in accordance with federal law. I’l be curious to see what the Secretary decides … stay tuned!

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