RI, Mass. move dates of September primaries to avoid Jewish holidays

Julianne Peixoto | WPRI-TV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Islanders will make a rare Wednesday trip to the ballot box later this year, and Massachusetts residents will vote two weeks earlier than usual, as both states move their primaries to avoid conflicting with Jewish holidays.

Rhode Island’s primary is usually set for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in September, which this year would be Sept. 11.

But Sept. 11 falls during Rosh Hashanah this year, so under state law Rhode Island’s primary will be moved to the next business day – Wednesday, Sept. 12. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s office confirmed the change.

It will be the first time Rhode Island has held its primary on a Wednesday since 1988, according to the Board of Elections.

On Tuesday, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office announced he has set the Bay State’s primary for Tuesday, Sept. 4, which is the day after Labor Day. The Massachusetts primary would otherwise have been on Sept. 18, but this year that evening is the start of Yom Kippur.

Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming said campaigns in both states will need to take the changes into account, though it could be more of an issue in Massachusetts than in Rhode Island.

“In Rhode Island, it’s 24 hours different for the voting – it’s still a weekday, the middle of the week,” Fleming said. “I don’t think its going to have a big impact on the turnout at all. I think the candidates will have to do a little more work to explain to people when the primary date is, a Wednesday not a Tuesday, but they’ll still have a strong get-out-the-vote operation to get the word out that it’s Wednesday.”

With Massachusetts setting its primary on Sept. 4, though, “people are coming right back from the Labor Day weekend – they may not be focusing on voting,” he said. “It may take more work there. That could have an effect.”

Galvin’s office also said he plans to file legislation that would allow five days of early voting for the Massachusetts primary.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook