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Sec. of State Galvin facing conflicts for picking state primary date



State House News Service
Tuesday, January 02, 2018

It is up to Secretary of State William Galvin to pick a date to hold Massachusetts’ 2018 state primary election and his request for public input hasn’t pointed to an obvious answer.

The date of the state primary is usually settled without much discussion or public attention, but this year Galvin is required by law to move the primary to an earlier date in September due to a conflict with a Jewish religious holiday.

The target date for the primary – 49 days before Election Day – is Tuesday, Sept. 18, but that date marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. One week earlier, Tuesday, Sept. 11, conflicts with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

State law requires Galvin to schedule the primary within seven days of the second Tuesday of September, this year Sept. 11, leaving the secretary a window from Sept. 4 until Sept. 18 to hold the election.

Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor who is challenging Galvin for the Democratic nomination to be secretary of state, said the secretary should take advantage of the scheduling conflict and plan to hold the statewide election on a weekend day.

“It’s an important opportunity to explore something new around a way to increase turnout and voter participation,” Zakim said. “The weekend of September 15 or 16 would make a lot of sense, and it’s something voting rights activists and civil right activists have long talked about to make it easier for people to vote.”

Zakim said he recently heard from Boston Public Schools students who were registered to vote but could not make it from their school to their neighborhood polling places in time to vote in a recent election. Holding the election on the weekend, he said, will make it easier for young people and workers to get to the polls.

Massachusetts is the only state without a primary election date, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many states hold their primary election before September, the month when Massachusetts holds its primary.

Zakim said he is surprised “that as 2018 begins, we are the only state in the country that has not yet determined when our primary will be held.”

“It’s not a surprise when these holidays fall,” said Zakim, who reported Tuesday raising $103,681.66 in his first month as a candidate for state secretary.

At a public hearing Galvin scheduled for Tuesday morning, only one person testified. Galvin asked for public input on the primary date, but his office said the feedback was not overwhelmingly in favor of any one particular day.

Benjamin Bloomenthal, an Acton Democrat who is considering running for a state House seat this year, suggested Galvin set the election date for either Tuesday, Sept. 4 or Thursday, Sept. 6 to avoid conflicting with either of two Jewish holidays.