An upcoming District special election will not be extended to accommodate Jews observing Passover, a federal judge ruled Friday.
A District rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Shalom — the National Synagogue, sued the city elections board Wednesday, claiming that many of his congregants would not be able to participate in the April 26 vote, which falls on the final day of Passover. Under strict interpretation of Jewish law, writing or using an electronic device is forbidden until 8:40 that evening; polls are set to close at 8 p.m.
But U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan found that the Board of Elections and Ethics had given observant Jews sufficient voting options. The board has offered early voting at its downtown headquarters since April 11; voters can also request an absentee ballot.
Given the alternatives, Sullivan said in a bench ruling, the city “imposes only a limited burden” on Herzfeld’s right to vote, and that while he was “profoundly sympathetic” to the rabbi’s desire to vote at his local polling place, that desire was not constitutionally sufficient to affect the election.
Herzfeld said the board’s refusal to change the date or extend voting hours was tantamount to “excluding observant Jews as a class. ... It’s a terrible precedent.” But he said he was pleased by Sullivan’s ruling because it allowed him to continue his lawsuit, which claims his constitutional rights were violated.
Read more in tomorrow’s Post.