NEW YORK (Mar. 23)
The local units of two national Jewish organizations today backed the Lindsay administration’s proposal to ban Sabbath elections for non-public office. Their immediate target is the scheduled election for officers of the city’s anti-poverty corporations on either Tuesday, April 18, or Saturday, April 22–the latter opposed by Jews for religious reasons, the former opposed by Blacks who feel they can turn out a larger vote on the weekend.
Daniel Shapiro, vice-president and president elect of the American Jewish Committee’s New York chapter, told the City Council that “holding elections on days on which religious individuals observe the Sabbath is not only unfair to these individuals but also constitutes a serious threat to the free exercise of religion and is, therefore, violative of the Constitution.”
Asserting that “the size of the vote depends on the will of the people to vote, not on the day when an election is held.” Shapiro contended that “Making it more convenient for some to vote at the expense of others’ religious beliefs is not an equitable or effective solution to that problem.” To inspire the largest possible voter turnout, Shapiro suggested increased police patrols in election areas, especially after dark; impartial poll watchers, and time off by public and private employers.
Theodore J. Kolish, chairman of the American Jewish Congress’ Metropolitan Council, testified that “the holding of elections on a Saturday forces observant Jews to choose between their right to participate in the democratic process and their religious obligations,” resulting in their “disenfranchisement” and their inability to stand as candidates or serve as poll watchers. Kolish charged that the “insensitivity” of the city’s attitude toward the Jewish poor here “is exemplified by the actions of the Council Against Poverty in permitting community corporations to hold Saturday elections.”