Nevada Primary Election May Leave Out Devout Sabbath Keepers

Nevada's decision to hold caucuses on Saturday morning during traditional worship services marginalizes Seventh-day Adventists and observant Jews, said James Standish, an associate director for the Adventist Church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty. [photo: Ansel Oliver/Adventist News Network][January 15, 2008] Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

Elizabeth Lechleitner/Adventist News Network

Presidential candidates may be the only ones vying for party nomination this Saturday in Nevada, but civic duty and religious conviction are on the ballot in many voters' minds.

Some Seventh-day Adventists and Jews are voicing concern over their state's failure to make provisions for Sabbath observant voters after party officials scheduled Nevada presidential caucuses for Saturday morning, January 19.

Republican and Democratic caucuses begin at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., respectively, conflicting with traditional church and synagogue services, Adventist and Jewish leaders said.

"Scheduling the caucuses on Sabbath morning marginalizes both the Seventh-day Adventist Christian and the Orthodox Jewish communities," said James Standish, Esq., an associate director for the Adventist Church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty.

"In an election that is being decided on thin margins, selecting a time that excludes thousands of voters may even change the outcome," he added.

Because Nevada holds caucuses rather than primaries, voters are required to show up at polling stations to indicate their support and engage in debates, disallowing absentee ballots and leaving some citizens conflicted.

"I'm not 'Mr. Politics' or anything, but I do like to stay informed and go out and vote," said Michael Flannigan, an Adventist from the Las Vegas area. "But this year, what with the caucus being on Sabbath, there'd be no way for me to have a voice. I'll be in church."

Flannigan, who said he feels disenfranchised, may not mirror all of Nevada's estimated 5,000 Adventists and 60,000 Jews, but said he "can't imagine" he's the only one who plans to vote for his conscience this Saturday.

January 19 was chosen because it was perceived to inconvenience the fewest number of registered Nevadans, an official at the Nevada Democratic Party told Standish earlier this week. The official said party leaders were aware of the time conflict.

Standish said Adventist and Jewish leaders are working with the state government to make sure Sabbath keepers can fully participate in both worship services and elections next time the state goes to caucus.