British Jews face being sidelined by Succot election

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British Jews face being sidelined by Succot election

Observant Jews fear prospect of being unable to attend polling stations if election held as predicted on 14 October – the first day of Succot.

Polling station
Polling station

British Jews face the prospect of being unable to attend polling stations if an election is held as predicted on 14 October – the first day of Succot.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears poised to push for a snap vote if rebel Tories, among them former chancellor Philip Hammond, back legislation designed to block a no-deal Brexit.

They have accused Johnson of risking the destruction of the party and vowed to defy threats of deselection.

The Board of Deputies has asked the government to explain the “concerns and difficulties” facing the Jewish community due to religious observance during the festival.

Vice president Amanda Bowman said: “If a General Election were to be held on Monday 14 October, this would coincide with the festival of Succot. This means that, due to religious restrictions, observant Jews would not be able to vote in person or participate on the day.”

While we understand that the situation surrounding Brexit means that there is very little flexibility over dates, we have been in touch with the Government to explain the concerns and difficulties that our community would face. If a General Election is held then, we will be encouraging everyone affected to apply for a postal vote so that their democratic rights are not affected.”

The Jewish Leadership Council said: “We are concerned that many observant Jewish voters could be disenfranchised by an election being called on a Jewish holiday and we have made representations to the government on this matter. We will be asking our community to sign up for postal votes as a matter of urgency so they can exercise their democratic vote.”

It advised: “[In the event of a 14 October election], those who observe the festival should apply for a postal vote in good time. This can be done now. You do not need to wait until an election is called. The deadline to register for a postal vote is 11working days prior to polling day. Please do so in good time so that the council can process your application. Do not delay.”

When asked what measures they had in place to ensure Orthodox voters could cast their ballot, an Enfield Council spokesperson told Jewish News it is “already communicating with residents to urge them to fill in their household enquiry forms and to make sure they are registered to vote. We agree that postal voting is an easy and convenient way of voting and would recommend that registered voters who may not be able to get to polling stations should apply to vote by post.”

A Barnet Council spokesperson responded to Jewish News, saying: “It is standard practice … to consider what preparations or planning is appropriate to ensure that any short notice elections can be delivered successfully.”

In the event of a General Election being called, we will be encouraging anyone who is unable to vote in person to apply to vote by post. Voting by post is an easy and convenient way of voting if you are unable to get to the polling station.”

“We are well placed to manage additional postal voters, as we already handle very high levels of postal voting at all of our elections. Barnet has both the highest number and highest percentage of electors with a postal vote in London.”

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