Maryland Primary Election Date Moved, Avoiding Passover


Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has signed legislation officially moving the date of the 2024 Maryland primary election following a push to do so from local Jewish organizations, as the original April date was set to coincide with the first day of Passover.

Gov. Wes Moore signs legislation to move the 2024 primary election date as to not overlap with Passover. (Courtesy of the Office of Governor Wes Moore)

As of when this went to press, this election is now set for the second Tuesday of May in order to avoid the holiday, offsetting concerns from state religious groups.

This change follows an effort from local politicians, with Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott and County Executive John Olszweski Jr. sending letters to Senate President William Ferguson and Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones, encouraging them to move the election.

H.B. 410, which included a measure changing the election’s date, was sponsored by Dels. Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg, Dalya Attar and Jon Cardin — all three of whom are Jewish. The bill also outlined several other proposed election-related rules, such as disallowing local boards of election from moving polling places without the input of their constituents.

“The Passover holiday celebrates our exodus to freedom. Centuries later, Election Day celebrates our fundamental right in a democracy — the right to vote,” Rosenberg, who represents Baltimore, wrote on his blog. “Sponsoring laws that protect the right to vote is one of my proudest accomplishments. When the system works in Annapolis, it is a great thing.”

Also among those who advocated for a new date were Del. Jessica Feldmark and state Sens. Shelly Hettleman and Cheryl Kagan. Kagan proposed an election-related bill in 2022 that was vetoed by former Gov. Larry Hogan. In trying to get the same bill passed this year, Hettleman added an amendment to the bill that would change the election’s date.
Kagan noted that the date proved problematic not only for the Jewish community, but also the Muslim community.

“When it was discovered that the scheduled primary date fell during Pesach, we knew we needed to make a change,” she explained. “It also fell during Ramadan, so it was not just a problem for the Jewish community but the Muslim community as well.”

An effort quickly emerged to change the election’s date to avoid interfering with any holidays that would prevent people from participating in the democratic process.

“As soon as this conflict was pointed out, a number of legislators and other elected officials quickly understood our concerns and stepped up to find a solution that worked — both for our local primaries here in Maryland and as part of the national presidential primary calendar,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “We were pleased to see Governor Moore sign the legislation.”

The Baltimore Jewish Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington worked in coalition to make this change possible. To vote in an election on the first day of Passover would be violating the Jewish laws surrounding the holiday. Had the election not been moved, many members of Baltimore’s Jewish community would not have been able to exercise their right to vote.

“There are some people who might ask what the big deal is since they can vote by mail,” Kagan added. “But it would also preclude observing Jews and Muslims, not only from voting in-person, but that they would not be able to serve as election judges or poll workers for the candidate of their choice. For all of those reasons, we decided we should move the primary date.”

While it is uncommon, this is not the first time that a local election has coincided with a Jewish holiday.

“This happened back in 1991, when the primary was moved due to its coinciding with Rosh Hashanah, so there’s precedent for this,” explained Ron Halber, executive director of JCRC of Greater Washington. “And it was far enough in advance to not hinder anyone. If the election date hadn’t been changed, it would have fallen on the first night of the second seder, disenfranchising many Jews.”

Halber noted that local Jewish organizations also supported members of the Muslim community due to the overlap with Ramadan, and that he appreciates the support the interfaith community has shown on the matter. While some of the legislators and local politicians that BJC and JCRC worked with were Jewish, many were not, but were still conscious of the community’s concerns about the election and Passover.

Before the date was changed, Maryland was not the only state with an election coinciding with Passover. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island as having elections scheduled for April 23, 2024, creating a conflict for Jewish voters in those states.

“It’s just important for [elected officials] to note religious holidays before they set election dates, so things like this don’t happen as often,” Halber said. “Democracy and accessibility are two things we have to protect.”

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