Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Religion should be factored in to allow everyone to vote in caucuses and primaries

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Originally published on on Thu, 01/17/2008 – 10:20am

We do believe in the separation of church and state, yet we believe in freedom of religion. For some that’s a dilemma, for us, it’s pretty clear cut.

We also believe mightily that everyone should have a chance to get out and vote, and the rules should be set up to make voting as easy as possible. This is why we were excited to see some Saturday caucuses and primaries – we figured it was a great way to increase democracy.

Unfortunately, the way the Nevada caucus is set up on a Saturday may actually hinder democracy.

For Jews who observe the Sabbath, the day of rest lasts from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. If you have a primary on a Saturday, you are set. The Jews can vote after sundown. Today’s sunset in Las Vegas is schedule for 4:51 p.m., plenty of time to vote if the polls close at 7 or 8. But the caucuses are being held Saturday morning.

According to this article, other Saturday caucuses (Nebraska, Washington, Wyoming, and Kansas) are scheduled to start after the end of the Sabbath.

Scheduling a Saturday morning caucus also is disruptive to the Sabbath of Seventh-day Adventists.

Ironically, for most Christian religions, their Sabbath would allow them to caucus on Sunday, even Sunday morning. Catholics, for example, can go to mass on Saturday night to fulfill their Sunday obligation.

In a primary, Jews, Seventh-day Adventists, and any other group we haven’t mentioned can vote by absentee ballot. But in a caucus, if you aren’t there, your vote doesn’t count.

If there are exceptions built into the Sabbath rules for Jews, Seventh-day Adventists, or any other group, we aren’t aware of them. In some religious situations, fasting may be optional if one’s health can’t handle the fast. So maybe voting could be labeled as an essential task.

Not that this is particularly a great example, but American Catholics faced a moral dilemma on Friday, March 17, 2006. Corned beef and cabbage is a staple of the St. Patrick’s Day diet in America, yet the Friday fell in Lent when Catholics aren’t supposed to eat meat. So bishops handed out various dispensations, allowing Catholics to enjoy corned beef even though it was a Friday.

Not to be sacrilegious, but if we can make an exception for corned beef, can’t we make an exception for voting for the next president of the United States?

So how should we settle this issue? Adjust caucuses to non-religious days? Make Saturday activities primaries only? Or not make any adjustments at all?


Written by democracysoup

January 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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