By Yosef Rapaport
With the pending August 16 deadline for voter registration by mail in New York State, Agudath Israel of America has issued an urgent call for Orthodox Jewish voters to register to vote in the crucial primaries and general elections.
According to many political observers, general turnout for local elections is usually low, especially during a non-presidential, off-year election. But this year’s primaries and elections will determine the face of New York City government for the four years to come, and it is crucial that the city’s Orthodox Jewish population come out to vote en masse.
Candidates vying for various positions are making an all-out effort to win the bloc of the pivotal Orthodox community. The race for the mayor’s office, in particular, is expected to be extremely close, and the Orthodox vote could spell the difference between victory and defeat.
Agudath Israel activists note that the rapid rise of the Orthodox population in the city, and the growth of their needs for essential government support, should compel the community into a more vigorous participation in the electoral process. “Nothing is more important to our community than our children and Jewish education,” says Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Agudath Israel’s vice-president for community services, “and with much of the community under great financial pressure, obtaining aid to Jewish schools is a top agenda item for the community, especially for special-needs children.”
Furthermore, according to Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s executive vice-president, essential issues of religious liberty are currently on the table–including the city’s unprecedented regulation of an aspect of b’ris milah–and it is critical that the incoming administration be sensitive to the community’s most fundamental religious concerns.
“Our communities are empowered when our voices are heard. And the way to ensure that our voices are heard is through the voting booth,” emphasizes Rabbi Zwiebel.
Those eligible can register in person at the Board of Elections (BOE) or at any of the state’s agency-based voter registration centers. Alternatively, registration forms can be obtained by calling the BOE hotline at 1-800-FOR-VOTE or by downloading a PDF version at www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/
To be eligible to vote in the upcoming all-important September 10 Primary, applications by mail must be postmarked no later than August 16 and received no later than August 21. v