Maryland Legislature Changes Registration Days to Avoid Dates of Jewish Holidays

The Maryland Legislature met in special session yesterday to amend the registration day law for Baltimore city in order to prevent the disfranchisement of approximately 20,000 Jews this Fall.

With startling rapidity, both the Senate and the House went through the formality of organizing, appropriated $9,000 for the expenses of the special session, passed unanimously the bill changing the Baltimore registration days and adjourned within one hour and thirty minutes after they were called to order.

The sessions in both branches got under way with the reading of Governor Ritchie’s proclamation calling the Legislature in special session. In his message the Governor reiterated the circumstances of the most sacred Jewish holidays—Rosh Hashonah and Succoth—falling on each of the registration days, September 23 and 24 and October 7 and 8, as set by the law. He said that unless the days were changed, more than 20,000 Jews would be able to register only after sundown on the nights of September 24 and October 8, or about six hours in all.

He pointed out the difficulty of registering so many persons in such a limited time and also pointed to the fact that unless the dates were changed, about 400 Jewish election officials could not serve nor could places of registration be obtained in Jewish homes until after sundown on the prescribed days.

“If the registration days are not changed this year,” said the Governor’s message, “then the result will be the virtual disfranchisement of a very considerable number of citizens, because their religious faith will not permit them to register on the days now designated. This would be unfair and unjust and contrary to our traditional policy of tolerance in matters of religion,” he said.

Immediately on completion of reading of the message, the city delegation in each house offered a bill providing that the registration dates for this year in Baltimore be September 16 and 17 and October 9 and 16 with revision day on October 17. This bill was referred to the Elections Committee in each house and within a few minutes reported back favorably.

With the bills already transcribed and printed for second and third readings, both houses suspended their rules and within a few minutes finally passed the measures.

Both bills were presented to Governor Ritchie a few minutes after their passage and he chose to sign that which originated in the Senate after Herbert Levy, Assistant Attorney-General of Maryland, passed on its legality and its technical drafting.

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