Rosh Hashanah forces rare Thursday primary vote in Delaware

(Charles Krupa/AP)

(Charles Krupa/AP)

Delaware voters can thank the calendar for why they will head to the polls on Thursday instead of the traditional Tuesday to pick candidates for the November ballot.

State law calls for Delaware’s primary vote to be held on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in September. Normally, that would make the primary on September 11. But this year, September 11 marks the end of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.

“The Jewish community worked with our office and with the General Assembly a couple of years ago to change the date to Thursday,” said Delaware elections commissioner Elaine Manlove.

Lawmakers couldn’t move the vote a week earlier because that would have put the vote on the day after Labor Day. They couldn’t move it a week later, because it would have delayed the state’s effort to mail absentee ballots to members of the military and other residents living overseas.

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“We have 45 days to get it in the mail, so it would have cut it too close,” she said.

Manlove isn’t concerned that the change in days will reduce voter turnout. “I think we’ve done a lot of advertising … and actually as I see signs on the road, a lot of candidates have the date on their signs,” Manlove said.

Before 2004, Delaware’s primary was on a Saturday, but it was moved to try to improve voter turnout. The last time they held a Saturday primary, turnout was abysmal, with just 8 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of Republicans showing up at the polls. The first Tuesday primary in 2004 saw Democratic voter turnout nearly double to 14 percent, while only 12 percent of Republicans voted. Turnout was better in 2016, with 20 percent of Democrats and 16 percent or Republicans voting.

Manlove is confident in the security of Delaware’s vote. “Nothing is ever connected to the internet from our voting machine. We’ve done a lot of work with federal homeland security on testing our system,” she said.

Whoever comes out to vote on Thursday, Manlove says poll workers will be ready. “We want everybody to get out and vote,” she said. “When we throw a big party, we sure want everyone to come.”

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