Religious Observances Can Alter Election Days

January 19, 2009

Author: Jennifer Bradshaw

Source: Asbury Park Press

Gov. Jon S. Corzine this month signed a bill permitting school board, general and primary election days to be moved if they conflict with religious observances.

The bill, introduced in September and sponsored by Assemblymen Gary S. Schaer, D-Passaic, and Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., D-Middlesex, was accepted by the Assembly around the same time that a community outcry in Edison prompted the school board there to change the date of a bond referendum to the first week of December. It originally was scheduled for Sept. 29, which was also Rosh Hashanah, one of the highest holy days of the Jewish faith.

Some Monmouth County residents also took offense in September when referendum questions for Shore Regional and Wall school districts were put forth on Rosh Hashanah as well.

Under the new bill, signed Jan. 12, the state commissioner of education may now make adjustments to the school budget and election calendar if the election date falls during a period of religious observance that "limits significantly the usual activities of the followers of a particular religion or that would result in significant religious consequences for such followers," the bill said.

The bill also allows the secretary of state to change the date of a presidential primary or general primary election for the same reason.