A coalition of 18 Jewish groups is objecting to the date Iowa’s two major political parties have set for the 2010 Iowa Caucuses. In late July, leaders from the Iowa Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Iowa announced precinct caucuses would be held on Saturday afternoon, January 23.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs organized the group’s who’re complaining about that date, saying observant Jews will be disenfranchised as the Jewish Sabbath starts at sundown Friday and ends Saturday night. The 2010 Caucuses are scheduled to start a one o’clock in the afternoon. Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, doesn’t seem ready to reschedule.
“We want to make sure those folks that have working concerns, that have family concerns have the ability to participate in the process,” Strawn says. “So we decided that in a non-presidential year, we would have a caucus on a Saturday.” The “off-year” precinct caucuses are not as well attended as caucuses held in election years.
Strawn and the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party have argued holding the 2010 caucuses on a Saturday will give shift workers and those who have school activities on weeknights a chance to participate. “The caucuses are one area in which the parties do work together,” Strawn says. “Republicans and Democrats alike have to ensure that Iowa protects its first-in-the-nation status and one thing we need to do is make sure that we’re involving as many people in the process as possible.”
Strawn made his comments this morning during taping of the I-P-T-V program, “Iowa Press.” The coalition of Jewish groups charges that holding the Iowa Caucuses on their Sabbath would “force members of the Iowa Jewish community to choose between their faith and civic duties.” The groups say observant Jews “would be unable to work on caucus day to support their candidates.”