Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. are asking legislative leaders to consider moving the 2024 primary election date because it overlaps with a major Jewish holiday.
The Democrats sent letters to the leaders of the Maryland General Assembly on Tuesday, saying that Jewish residents who strictly observe Passover in the region and across the state would be precluded from voting on April 23, 2024. Jewish law restricts working on religious holidays, which includes participating in elections.
In his letter, Scott noted Northwest Baltimore’s large Orthodox Jewish population. “As Mayor, I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that all members of the community are able to participate in our democratic process without obstacles or barriers,” he wrote.
“I strongly encourage the General Assembly to identify a new date that would avoid this conflict with the Passover holiday.”
Del. Dalya Attar, a Democrat who represents Northwest Baltimore City, said she is drafting a bill to move the primary election date a week earlier to April 16, 2024.
Attar and Del. Sandy Rosenberg delivered a letter to Linda Lamone, the head of the state board of elections, on Wednesday about their desire to change the date. They noted that a Baltimore City primary election day was changed in 1991 due to a conflict with a Jewish holiday.
State law sets the primary date in presidential election years for the fourth Tuesday of April, and it dictates that only the General Assembly can change election dates, barring other circumstances. Former Gov. Larry Hogan delayed the 2020 primary at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, and Maryland’s highest court delayed the 2022 primary while legal challenges to new district maps were still unresolved.
“As leaders, we have an obligation to do all we can to empower as many residents as possible to fulfill their civic duty and participate in our Democracy,” Olszewski wrote.
Maryland has expanded opportunities for voters to cast ballots outside of election day, including in-person early voting and voting by mail ballot.
Representatives for House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.