OTTAWA– In 2019, Election Day coincides with the holy day of Shemini Atzeret. Days set aside for advance voting also coincide with Jewish holidays or fall on Erev Shabbat, complicating the situation for many observant and orthodox members of the Jewish community.
B’nai Brith Canada was active in seeking a change of the election date, an effort which we successfully argued before the Federal Court on behalf of the Jewish community. We talked not just about voting, but about the implications for the constraints on ‘meaningful participation’ in the election by our community – including knocking on doors, getting out the vote, and serving as support workers or scrutineers on Election Day.
Those interested as to why a date change was not accepted, and to what is now being done as a result, should read the detailed decision by the Chief Electoral Officer issued on July 29, 2019. This document provides many useful tips on how Jewish Canadians can vote if they are unable to cast a ballot on Oct. 21, particularly in the section ‘Action Plan for Observant Jewish Community Voting’.
As we head towards Election Day on Oct. 21, we have been working closely with Elections Canada to maximize opportunities for Jewish Canadians to vote. Elections Canada has sensitized all of its Returning Officers to the importance of reaching out to the Jewish community – particularly in some 54 ridings where there are large numbers of Jewish electors. It is also ensuring they are aware of arrangements for advance voting and use of special ballots ahead of Election Day. Elections Canada will be doing the same with specially appointed Community Relations Officers over the next several weeks.
- Jewish community leaders should know their Returning Officers and Community Relations Officers, who are acquainted with our community’s concerns and are available to assist with alternative voting options.
- It is important that our community engages in a process of dialogue with ROs (and CROs, when appointed) to seek information and convey any concerns we have.
- Voters should know their ridings and their candidates, including candidates from smaller parties and those running as independents. For those who have internet access, go to the Elections Canada website and simply enter your postal code.
- Everyone should consult the Guide to the Federal Election (for Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian, go to the ‘Other Languages’ button).
- There are many ways to vote. Advance voting can be done by mail at any time after the election writ is made official. The process has been simplified.
- Special kiosks will be set-up by Elections Canada in advance at central locations in the 54 designated ridings, to assist Jewish community members. Watch for details to be furnished by your community leaders on locations for the kiosks, an initiative targeting Oct. 10th.
- University students can vote on campus. Here’s a Student Voting Infographic. Note that the opportunities for ‘Vote on Campus’ generally do not conflict with Jewish holidays, are centrally located, and can be used by any eligible student voter no matter where their home riding is.
- Be mindful that, in addition to Election Canada’s website as a resource, EC is active on all major social media channels – particularly Twitter and Facebook.
We say that the best response for our community, now, is to make sure that our voices are heard louder than ever. We say that every Canadian Jew who is capable of doing so should cast a ballot via advanced polls or special ballots.
For the future, we say that every Canadian Jew should ask their local candidates one key question: Will you support amendments to the Canada Elections Act, backed by B’nai Brith Canada, to ensure that future election days no longer fall on major Jewish holidays?