By Bob Katzen
Secretary of State Bill Galvin announced that the 2018 state primaries will be held on Tuesday, September 4 instead of Tuesday, September 18, the original date established by law. This year September 18 coincides with the important Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. If there is a conflict with a religious holiday, state law requires Galvin to move the primary to a date within seven days of the second Tuesday in September, which this year is September 11. That gave Galvin a choice of the 15 days from Sept. 4 until Sept. 18 to hold the election.
A logical choice would be to hold the election the week before on Tuesday, September 11, but that would create another problem because that date coincides with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. These circumstances led to Galvin choosing September 4.
Galvin also will be proposing legislation to allow each city and town to hold five days of early voting prior to the state primaries. “Given the interest we are already seeing in the primaries and the successful implementation of early voting in the 2016 state election, I believe offering early voting for the state primaries would provide a greater opportunity for voter participation,” Galvin said.
The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) said it is pleased that Galvin has embraced the league’s recommendation to extend early voting days to the primary. “We are disappointed in the timing of the primary, which is earlier than the dates LWVMA recommended,” said the league’s President Mary Ann Ashton. “Voting on the day after Labor Day will prove challenging for voters in the commonwealth, especially for families preparing children for the start of school, and for candidates who are eager to get their message out to voters.”
Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, who is challenging Galvin for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, was less kind.
“It is outrageous and unprecedented to schedule a statewide primary for the day after Labor Day, when people are just returning from their summer vacations and haven’t had time to focus on the upcoming election,” Zakim said.
Zakim accused Galvin of brazenly trying to depress voter turnout. “We should be making it easier and more convenient for people to vote, not putting up additional barriers,” he said. “There are any number of dates that he could have selected that would have made it easier for working people and young people to get to the polls despite busy work and school schedules. I’m running for secretary of the commonwealth to make government more accessible to the people it serves. Scheduling this vote the day after Labor Day achieves the exact opposite.”
When asked to respond to Zakim’s charges, Deb O’Malley, spokeswoman for Galvin said, “I have no comment on this.”