Observant Jews Effectively Barred from Nevada Caucuses
We’ve been drawing attention this week to the fact that the media-sponsored exit polls in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary only asked Republicans if they are evangelicals — effectively rendering Democratic evangelical primary voters invisible. But at least they got to cast their votes.
Religious Jews in Nevada will have to choose between voting and practicing their faith on January 19, the day of the Republican and Democratic Nevada caucuses. January 19 is a Saturday and the caucuses will be held at 9 and 11:30 am — during morning religious services for observant Jews.
As my friend Melissa Boteach, Poverty Campaign Coordinator at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs writes:
January 19th is one of the most important contests in the Democratic and Republican quests for their parties’ nomination for the presidency. It is also Shabbat.
This year, the Nevada Democratic and Republican parties have decided to hold their primary caucuses on a Saturday, with citizens required to report by 11:30 and 9:00 AM respectively, right during morning religious services. 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.
Nevada has one of the fastest growing Jewish populations in the country, and its 65,000-80,000 Jewish community members are expected to have a disproportionate impact on the results.
On January 19th, Nevada’s observant Jews will be asked to make a false choice between practicing their Judaism and participating in a defining American moment. To all Americans, not just American Jews, this should be seen as a disappointment.
This is unacceptable in American democracy. Has anyone seen media coverage of this beyond the Jewish press? Where’s the outrage?