Pressure is mounting on the Nevada State Democratic Party to change its caucus plans next Saturday to accommodate voters who observe the Sabbath.
The Nevada Democratic Party Caucus will take place next Saturday. But unlike the Iowa Caucus which took place at 8:00 pm, this caucus is scheduled for 11:00 am. This means Observant Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists who observe the Sabbath won’t be able to participate because of their religious beliefs. In 2012, when the Republican presidential primary fell out on Sabbath, local party leaders ensured that there was a post-Sabbath caucus for those who could not attend earlier due to religious reasons. According to Laura Goldman, some 300-400 people participated in the 2012 evening Republican caucus.
“We are dismayed to learn that no religious accommodation will be made for those Democratic caucus members who celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday and, therefore, are unable to participate in this key component of the election process,” Jolie Brislin, Nevada regional director of the ADL, said in a statement. “As an organization committed to safe-guarding religious freedom, we feel it is patently unfair to exclude someone from the caucus process because they are religiously observant. We urge the party leadership to reconsider this decision.”
Nevada is home to over 76,000 Jews.
On Thursday, The Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, called on the State Democratic Party to change its rules and allow absentee voting to accommodate Orthodox Jewish voters. “We ask the Nevada State Democratic Party to change its policy and ensure that all Nevadans can participate in the important presidential caucus. We must protect religious freedom,” Nathan Diament, Executive Director of OU Advocacy, said in a statement.
The Republican Party is holding its presidential primary in South Carolina on the same day. But voters can cast absentee ballots in advance. In a message sent by Congregation Dor Tikvah, Rabbi Michael David and Rabbi Moshe Davis write, “As important as it is to get out and vote, we cannot forego our Jewish roots, our faith, and tradition, specifically the honor of the Sabbath. We are fortunate in today’s day and age to be able to accomplish both of these ideals rather seamlessly, albeit with a little forethought. We can vote early from now through the primary by going to the Charleston County Board of Registration Headquarters. You can also sign up for an absentee ballot. There are many reasons accepted for voting early, including one for religious conflicts. We encourage everyone to fulfill their civic duty, better yet to take advantage of the privilege of voting, and at the same time be true to our rich and beautiful tradition.”
Nevada does not offer this alternative, instead requiring all voters who aren’t members of the military to participate in person.