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Virginia GOP Rejects Religious Exemption for Orthodox Jews

Update April 26th: After outrage from Jewish groups, Virginia Republicans reverse decision and will accommodate voting for Shabbat observers; more here.

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The Virginia GOP State Central Committee voted down a measure on April 22nd that would have allowed some Jews to vote via absentee ballot during the party’s upcoming convention. The convention takes place on May 8, a Saturday, meaning that Jews who observe Shabbat would have no way of being able to vote without an absentee ballot.

The convention will select the party’s nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The amendment that would have allowed the religious exemption failed to reach the 75% supermajority threshold to pass.

According to WRIC, one district committee chair argued that military personnel who serve overseas are required to show verification to obtain an absentee ballot, and another local chair argued that it wouldn’t be prudent to change the rules a couple of weeks before the convention.

Thomas Turner, who chairs the Young Republicans of Virginia and is one of the two Black members of the committee, said during the meeting that the party’s failure to pass the amendment “is why people say we are not inclusive.” “Let my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community vote. Let them vote! We talk about voter integrity, and we’re trying to suppress the vote. This is exactly what this is.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) denounced the Virginia GOP in a tweet. “It is very disappointing to see observant Jews disenfranchised like this,” they wrote. “We hope @VA_GOP will reconsider this decision.”

According to The Washington Post, a Jewish member of the committee, Mike Ginsberg, said during the meeting that opposition to the amendment isn’t the result of anti-Semitism. “This is not bigotry. … Here we are, two weeks out, trying to deal with this. My view, it’s too late.”