NJ Senate votes to ban elections on holy days

15 12 2008

Patrick Diegnan

Moving to avoid any repetition of a situation that angered Jewish residents of Edison, both houses of the State Legislature voted to prevent elections from being held on religious holidays.

The legislation allows state officials to change the dates of municipal elections if they fall on days when religiously observant voters might be unable to go to the polls.

The bill passed unanimously in the State Senate on Nov. 24. The Assembly approved a companion bill in September.

It now awaits signature by Gov. Jon Corzine.

The legislation was written after the Edison Public School District scheduled a bond issue referendum for Sept. 30, the first day of Rosh Hashana.

Officials said their hands were tied by state law limiting the dates on which such elections could be held, although they later relented — following protests led by the Jewish community — and postponed the vote until Dec. 9.

“Knowingly scheduling an election on a day of solemn religious observance is an insult to New Jerseyans everywhere who value the diversity of our state,” said Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Dist. 36), a cosponsor of the bill and the only Orthodox Jewish member of the Legislature.

“We simply cannot allow an entire segment of our society to be shut out from casting their votes,” said his colleague and cosponsor, Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Dist. 18). “Even with our constitutional separation of church and state, no resident has ever been asked to shove their religious views in a drawer.

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