Pennsylvania’s Primary Remains on First Day of Passover. How Can Observant Jews Still Vote?

The Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg (Thinkstock/zrfphotoç)

Four states originally had primaries scheduled for April 23, the first full day of Passover. But Delaware, Rhode Island and Maryland all moved their elections to different dates.

Pennsylvania is the only state with a primary still scheduled then.

Going into the fall legislative session in Harrisburg, there was optimism that the General Assembly would move the date.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Jewish Rep. Jared Solomon, who represents the 202nd District in Northeast Philadelphia.

“I would guess that it’s something we’ll address,” added Jewish Rep. Ben Waxman of District 182 in Center City.

Except it wasn’t something they addressed.

Democrats in the House tried to add election reforms such as increasing the amount of canvassing days for political candidates. Republicans in the Senate just tried to pass a bill that would have changed the date. Pennsylvania’s Jewish governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro, supported moving the primary but did not take a position on either side’s proposals.

“We had a deal on Monday, and then the deal fell apart,” said Jewish Rep. Abigail Salisbury, who represents the Pittsburgh-based 34th District, in November.

Now, halachically observant Jews will not be able to go to the polls on election day. But if you are one, you can still vote. Here’s how.

Visit Vote.PA.Gov

In all 67 Pennsylvania counties, you can vote by mail. Just visit That will take you right to the mail-in request application.

Fill Out the Application

Scroll down to the bottom of the page, check off the box that says, I’m not a robot, and click Begin your application. Answer the series of questions. Then click the Continue button. After that, enter your information and upload either your PennDOT driver’s license or your PennDOT identification card.

When you reach the end of these steps, click submit and your request for a mail ballot will be sent to your county board of elections office for processing. If you include your email address in your application, you can track your ballot.


If you get your application in by 5 p.m. on April 16, you will receive a ballot in the mail. Fill out the ballot, date it properly and send it back in by 8 p.m. on election night.

You can also deliver your ballot to your county’s board of elections office or drop it into a secure drop box in your home county. Check your county’s website for drop box locations.

The Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, the governor’s office and the Pennsylvania Department of State are working together to market this process, according to Hank Butler, the executive director of the PJC. They are hoping to provide a QR code to Jewish federations, synagogues and other organizations. A quick scan of it would take voters to
Butler said the marketing push would likely begin around Feb. 1.

“We want to make sure everyone is notified to vote,” he said.

Jonathan Goldman, the chair of the PJC, also wants to emphasize that no one needs to wait. You can request your mail ballot now.

“I cannot wake up on election day and go get a mail-in ballot. At a minimum, you need to apply for a mail-in ballot,” he said.

Rabbi Yonah Gross, who leads the Orthodox Congregation Beth Hamedrosh in Wynnewood, said, “We’d probably put it in our announcements. How to vote by mail. Most people do vote. We’ll get the word out.”

Every year, Gross announces elections “beforehand,” he added.

“We certainly encourage everybody to vote,” he concluded.

The PJC is also going to work with federations to reach out to synagogues and Jewish community centers that are signed up to serve as polling places.

“Will they wish to handle the primary election? Once we can gather information, hopefully by the end of January, we can work with the Department of State, and they can find alternative locations on election day,” Butler said.

The other group that may have been impacted by the Passover primary would have been halachically observant candidates. But Butler and other political insiders are not aware of any in the state.

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