Mayor Brandon Scott, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. seek to move 2024 primary from Passover

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. are asking the Maryland General Assembly to change the date of the state’s 2024 primary, which is scheduled to take place on the first full day of Passover next year.

In separate letters Thursday to Senate President Bill Ferguson and House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, the two Democrats pointed out the Democratic and Republican primaries for local, state and federal offices are slated to take place April 23, 2024, which falls during the eight-day Jewish holiday, which begins at sundown April 22.


Both wrote that the primary date, if kept in place, would make it more difficult for Jewish voters to get to the polls — and Scott pointed out it would be impossible for Orthodox Jews. They are prohibited from doing work, including the casting of ballots, on the first two days and last two days of the observance.

“As you may know, this is a holy period in which no work can be done, similar to the High Holidays in the fall and each Shabbat,” Scott wrote. “Under Jewish law, voting during this period would be prohibited ... As mayor, I believe it is my responsibility to insure that all members of our community are able to participate in our democratic process without obstacles or barriers.”

Mayor Brandon Scott's letter

Scott specifically mentioned Northwest Baltimore, a part of the city with a significant Orthodox Jewish population.

Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg and Dalya Attar are two of the three Democratic delegates who represent the 41st District, which includes that portion of the city. Rosenberg said he and Attar sent a letter Wednesday to Linda Lamone, the state administrator of elections, drawing attention to the matter.

“It’s a significant burden on people in the Jewish community who observe the holiday,” Rosenberg said. “We do have other options [for voting], but there’s still a significant number of people who vote on Election Day, and clearly you would have a reduction in the turnout, all told, for the primary if the primary date remains on the first day of Passover.”

Letter to BOE

Primary dates are specified in Maryland law, which calls for them to be the fourth Tuesday in April of a presidential election year. Early voting for the 2024 primary is scheduled for April 11-18.

Attar said in an email that she would introduce a bill to change the primary date. In the letter to the state elections board, Attar and Rosenberg said April 16 is their initial suggestion.

“That date could still accommodate early voting without any conflict with Easter,” they wrote.

Easter will be March 31 in 2024.

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In addition to the presidential primaries, voters will select nominees for Maryland’s U.S. House seats and the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Ben Cardin. Voters in Baltimore will nominate candidates for mayor, City Council president, comptroller and council members. In heavily Democratic Baltimore, the party’s primary is the contest that typically determines the expected winner of the fall election.


Because Passover is pegged to the Hebrew calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle, the dates are not anchored to specific days on the Western calendar. Passover usually falls either in March or April.

Since primary dates are established by state law, it would take an act of the legislature to change them, and both Scott and Olszewski indicated they strongly back such a solution.

Baltimore County 2024 primary date letter

Rosenberg, who has been a delegate since 1983, said there is precedent. The General Assembly moved the 1991 primary two days later because it coincided with Rosh Hashana.

Rosenberg, who is Jewish, introduced the bill that year, and he said this year’s conflict brings with it an even greater symbolic significance than its predecessor did.

“The Passover holiday celebrates our exodus to freedom,” he said. “Centuries later, Election Day celebrates our fundamental right in a democracy — the right to vote.”

Spokespersons for Ferguson and Jones, who are Democrats, did not respond to messages seeking comment.