Baltimore region leaders ask Maryland lawmakers to change Election Day for 2024 primary
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott penned letters to Democratic leaders of the Maryland General Assembly asking to move Election Day for the 2024 primary because it overlaps with the first full day of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Jewish law requires individuals to avoid certain activities, including using electronics and writing, during certain religious holidays. That would prohibit voting in an election on April 23, 2024.
Olszewski said the Baltimore Jewish Council brought the issue to his attention.
"I just wanted to weigh in so that our residents and especially our Jewish residents know that we take this seriously and we want to weigh in on their behalf to ensure we're providing every opportunity for them to vote," Olszewski said.
There is a large Orthodox Jewish population in Northwest Baltimore, according to Scott's letter.
"I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that all members of the community are able to participate in our democratic process without obstacles or barriers,” Scott wrote. "I strongly encourage the General Assembly to identify a new date that would avoid this conflict with the Passover holiday.”
Typically, only the General Assembly can change election dates under state law. And it's happened before, such as when the primary dates were pushed back in 2020 by then-Gov. Larry Hogan through executive order related to the coronavirus pandemic and in 2022 during a redistricting map fight. Both delays occurred weeks before the elections were scheduled.
Olszewski expects legislation will be introduced in both the House of Delegates and the Senate to change the primary date.
Olszewski remembered how he won his first term as county executive. He won the Democratic primary by 17 votes.
"I realize how important every vote is and making sure that everyone has the opportunity to have their voices heard," Olszewski said.
Representatives for House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.