Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nevada Caucus Timing May Disenfranchise Observant Jews

Nevada's Republican and Democratic caucuses next Saturday pose a unique religious liberty problem for observant Jews in the state. Unlike primaries and general elections where voters can use absentee ballots, caucuses require voters to show up at set times. Those times conflict with the typical time for Jewish Sabbath morning services. Just Engage blog reported last week:
When I called the political parties in Nevada to inquire as to whether or not there were measures being taken to help accommodate those observant Jews who wished to participate in the caucuses, I received mixed results. A young Jewish woman at the Nevada Democratic Party told me that they had tried to put caucus-sites near religious neighborhoods and synagogues so that people could walk; precinct captains would be educated about the need to write down information on behalf of observant Jews instead of asking them to sign-in and write themselves. A gentleman at the Nevada Republican Party told me that the party was not even aware of the problem, but promised to make an effort to educate precinct captains on the issue. Neither had an adequate answer as to why the caucuses had to take place on a Shabbat morning.
The problem is more than theoretical in Nevada. The state, according to Just Engage, has a rapidly growing Jewish population estimated to total between 65,000 and 80,000.