Date of 2012 primary to change due to conflict

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service / July 7, 2011

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The date of the 2012 state primary election will be moved and could be rescheduled to a Wednesday or Thursday to avoid a conflict with the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashana, Secretary of State William F. Galvin said yesterday as a top Senate lawmaker called the current election calendar problematic.

According to the calendar posted on Galvin’s website, the state primary in 2012, when voters will be asked to decide Democratic and Republican races for US Senate, the US House of Representatives, and the Legislature is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 18.

That date coincides with the second day of Rosh Hashana, a two-day observance of the Jewish New Year that starts at sundown on Sunday and ends at sunset on the 18th.

“I see this as very problematic,’’ state Senator Barry Finegold said. “There are people who literally won’t travel to the polls on that day for religious reasons, and we don’t want to deprive anyone of the ability to vote.’’

Galvin, the state’s top elections official, said the issue had already been brought to his attention, and though he could not commit to a new date he said there was no question that the election would be moved.

“We’ve moved it before; we’ll move it again,’’ Galvin told State House News Service in response to an inquiry placed with his office. “Obviously we can’t have it conflict with Rosh Hashana.’’

Finegold, Democrat of Andover and Senate cochairman of the Committee on Election Laws, suggested that the primary be held one week earlier, on Sept. 11, the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that left thousands of Americans dead. Holding a primary on Sept. 11 would be precedent-setting, he said.

“I think, if anything, it would be really symbolic,’’ Finegold said. “When events were happening, Secretary Galvin, to his credit, didn’t call off the special election with Steve Lynch, and it shows you no matter what happens, it doesn’t deprive us of our freedoms.’’

Finegold was referring to the special primary election held Sept. 11, 2001 and won by US Representative Stephen F. Lynch following the death of J. Joseph Moakley. Despite the turmoil after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington using planes that took off from Logan International Airport, Galvin allowed the election to proceed that day.

Galvin said he would not have a problem conducting another election on Sept. 11, despite the many memorial services and observances held on the anniversary of the attacks.

“That is not a problem, but what may be a problem is the availability of public buildings,’’ Galvin said. The secretary said he would work with municipalities to find a suitable alternative when polling locations would be available, committing only to a primary earlier, rather than later than the currently scheduled date.

“It’s going to be earlier than the 17th; I can tell you that,’’ Galvin said, leaving open the possibility of holding the election on a Wednesday or Thursday instead of the traditional Tuesday election, if it fit with municipal schedules.

Settling on a new date for the election, however, could take some time. Galvin said he is currently focused on making sure the redistricting process is completed in time to avoid a disruption in signature-filing deadlines and delegate selection for the presidential primary scheduled on March 6.

Elana Margolis, director of government affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, called Rosh Hashana “one of the holiest days of observance in the Jewish tradition’’ and said holding an election on the second day of the holiday created a significant problem for many members of the community to vote.