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Reversing decision, Virginia Republicans allow Shabbat observers to vote early

With party election set for Saturday, local GOP will allow Orthodox Jews to place ballot for gubernatorial nominee a day early, after request from Republican Jewish Coalition

The Virginia Republican Party State Central Committee votes on a number of measures at a virtual meeting, including a vote on whether to allow a religious exemption for Saturday convention voting, April 22, 2021. (Facebook)
The Virginia Republican Party State Central Committee votes on a number of measures at a virtual meeting, including a vote on whether to allow a religious exemption for Saturday convention voting, April 22, 2021. (Facebook)

JTA — The Virginia Republican Party, reversing a previous decision, has created an opportunity for Jews to vote for a gubernatorial nominee before Shabbat starts.

On Sunday, the party’s State Central Committee took a second vote and unanimously agreed to allow Orthodox Jews to vote during the day on May 7, a Friday, the day before the May 8 convention. They must apply to do so by May 4.

Several days earlier, a majority of the same committee had voted to accommodate Orthodox Jewish voters and others like Seventh-day Adventists who do not vote on Saturday, but the vote did not meet the 75% threshold to pass.

Without the adjustment, voting to pick a nominee would have been confined to Shabbat hours.

The Republican Jewish Coalition asked the party to reconsider. On Monday, two members of the Norfolk Orthodox Jewish community who are also active in the state GOP announced the change.

The statement by Ian Cummings and Ken Reid referred to months of infighting over whether the party should have a convention or a primary to decide who among seven candidates deserves the party’s nod for governor.

“A number of SCC members in the minority were distrustful of this absentee amendment due to months of infighting among two factions in the governing body,” the statement said. “But over the weekend, many of these GOP leaders were able to hear from committed Sabbath-observing Republicans and came to understand that these fears were misplaced.”

The statement also thanked Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, and the Coalition for Jewish Values, a national advocacy group, for weighing in on the issue.

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