Outrage over Yomtov date for election

By Marcus Dysch, September 12, 2008

A council has disenfranchised hundreds of Jewish voters - by scheduling a by-election on Yom Kippur.
Haringey Council picked the holiest day of the year after being told by an adviser that the previous Thursday, October 2, would prove an even less popular choice because it would be the "third day of Rosh Hashanah". (For the avoidance of doubt, Rosh Hashanah is a two-day festival).

It is not known who advised the Labour-run council, which this week said it took "no pleasure or satisfaction" in the decision, but claimed it had "little choice" but to select that date.

Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: "This is inexcusable and utterly wrong, and should be reversed."

Around 450 Jewish residents will now be deprived of the chance to vote unless they visit the ballot box after Yom Kippur ends at 7.07pm, or by registering for a postal vote.

The poll, in Alexandra ward, was sparked by the resignation of a Liberal Democrat councillor last month.
Helen Style, vice-chair of Muswell Hill Synagogue, on the ward's border, said: "A lot of our younger members have moved into that area. The council could not have picked a worse day. They would not have an election on Eid or Easter. It shows their utter ignorance. It is a matter of principle."

Alexandra ward resident Bracha Games said: "It's outrageous. It shows a flagrant disregard for the Jewish people of Haringey."

Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said: "It's completely unnecessary to have it on Yom Kippur. They have refused over and over to change the date. It does not matter how many Jewish voters there are in the ward, it is about the respect the council has for its residents. The council just would not listen when we told them Yom Kippur was a much worse day for the election than the ‘third day' of Rosh Hashanah."

A council spokesman said the election could only take place between September 30 and October 10.

He added: "Polling almost universally takes place on a Thursday and any departure from this could be problematic for a large proportion of the electorate. We sincerely hope this situation does not arise again and will again do all in our power to prevent it from doing so."

Last updated: 3:21pm, September 11 2008