Local Democrats, GOP plan to convene during Shabbat

By Phyllis LaVietes
Special to the TJP

At early voting in Collin County, there were signs indicating that both the Republican and Democratic precinct conventions would be held on Saturdays (Republican on March 5 and Democratic on March 19).
Emails were sent to both the Republican and Democratic headquarters in Collin County as well as to the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition, calling attention to the problem for Shabbat observers.
No response was received from anyone in the Democratic Party.
Two responses were received from the Republican Party. Executive Director Neal J. Katz of the Collin County Republican Party replied, “While we had previously held our Precinct Conventions right after voting on Primary Day (usually a Tuesday), the change to Voting Centers resulted in a much lesser turnout as many citizens did not vote at their ‘home’ locations, and never returned to that location to participate in the Convention process. Lubbock County, which was the first county to use Vote Centers, was the first county to try this approach, as we are testing it this year. The main issue is finding a good location that could hold 200 separate meetings as well as a general session consisting of possibly 1,000-plus citizens.
“Weekdays are impossible due to work, school, etc. We could not arrange the needed space in the colleges in the area, particularly with night classes in session, and the only other alternatives are the mega-churches. We were able to secure church space, and since Sunday is their day of worship Saturday is our only option. Being Jewish myself, I have run into this issue many times. On several occasions I have been able to convince organizers of an event to re-schedule as it would have fallen on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur; there were no options available this time. If you have resolutions you would like to send on as part of the process, you may send them on with someone else in your precinct; at least that way you can participate. I appreciate your contacting this office. I sincerely hope we can find a way to solve this issue in the future.”
Shari Hillman, information director for technology and content at the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., replied as follows:
“Thank you for your note. Similar issues arise in a few places each election cycle — a convention on Shabbat, a caucus on Shabbat, a primary on Shabbat. It’s not from any intention to exclude people, but from a lack of knowledge or of planning for inclusion.
“The way to change that for the future is for members of the local Jewish community to work with local officials, early in the process, to discuss these things and if necessary, to encourage them to reschedule conventions, allow early voting, or keep polls open until after Shabbat, to accommodate observant Jews. This year, the Kansas caucus is on Saturday, March 5, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. People there worked with the head of the Kansas Republican Party to arrange for early voting for those who cannot go on Saturday.
“It’s a nice example of what’s possible when members of the community build relationships with their local officials.”

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