This year, most of Pennsylvania falls on Passover. Here’s what you need to know to vote.

April 23 is the first full day of the Jewish holiday of Passover. It’s also the first day in Pennsylvania.

This means that Orthodox Jews or observant election workers cannot work, and some polling places set up in Jewish community centers or local synagogues have been relocated. So Philadelphia voters – attentive or not – may need to plan to cast their ballots by absentee or absentee ballot in the next few days.

Pennsylvania statute sets the base date as the fourth Tuesday in April. After realizing the conflict, the Democratic-controlled state House and Republican-controlled state Senate were unable to agree on a novel primary date, Republican City Commissioner Seth Bluestein said.

Bluestein called it a “unique challenge.”

According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, in the five counties surrounding Philadelphia, 8% identify as Orthodox and an additional 23% identify as Conservative.

“That’s a significant number of people who are unable to vote on the first day of the election,” said Amy Widestrom, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.

During the first two and last days of Passover, devout Jews do not drive, work, write or turn on electrical devices.

To ensure that voters do not skip the ballot without expressing their opinion, the Montgomery County Board of Elections several satellite offices were established where residents can apply for an absentee ballot. These locations include places in Lansdale, Pottstown, Lower Merion, Willow Grove, Norristown.

Completed absentee ballot applications or absentee ballots must be submitted by: district electoral commissions until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16.

Over the next seven days, Widestrom advised citizens to request an absentee or mail-in ballot and mail it in advance to arrive by 8 p.m. on the first day, April 23.

“You can’t stamp it. It cannot be placed in the mailbox on this day. They must be received by 8 p.m. on election day,” she said.

Neil Makhja, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, is one of more than 100,000 Jewish households in the suburban county that celebrate the holiday. MontCo is home to approximately 14% of the area’s Jewish population.

Additionally, over the past few years, the Jewish community in the Philadelphia region has grown exponentially, a WHY News found in 2020.

Makhya expressed disappointment that government leaders had overlooked religious obligations.

“Sometimes government policy doesn’t impact everyone equally, and to truly ensure everyone has equal access to the ballot, you have to take into account what’s happening in communities,” he said. “It’s puzzling. How can you just ignore it? They wouldn’t do that if it was just another holiday, right? We know that wouldn’t happen. That’s why we need people in leadership positions who care about inclusion.”

Widestrom and Makhja advised everyone to check if their polling place has changed. While Passover is one of many reasons for moving polling places, it can be inconvenient for people used to walking just around the corner. For some, voting is a habit, and advocates want to make it easier, not harder, for community members to engage in civic life.

“The most important way for most people to engage in civic life is by voting,” Widestrom said.

In Montgomery County, some polling places have moved to locations where they were initially intended to support reduce confusion and inconvenience. Satellite offices are located in Lower Merion, near Center City in Willow Grove, Pottstown and Landsdale.

“The right to vote is something we cannot take for granted,” Makhja said. “Every person in our country has an equal say in the direction we go.”

“Most people would think, ‘It’s just one vote. Do you know how important this is? But here in Pennsylvania, we find that it really does matter and every vote makes a huge difference, not just for the county or the Commonwealth, but for the entire country.”


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