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Australia holding elections on Yom Kippur

SYDNEY (JTA) – Australia scheduled its national elections for Yom Kippur.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Sept. 14 date on Wednesday.

With the Yom Kippur date, more Australian Jews are expected to vote by mail or at pre-poll booths, as Sabbath observers do now because Australian elections are held on Saturdays.

Voting is mandatory in Australia; those who do not vote are fined.

Michael Danby, a Jewish lawmaker from the ruling Labor Party, said Gillard called him immediately after she made the announcement. Danby said he plans to contact the special minister of state to discuss ”extra arrangements” to make it easier for Jews to cast their ballots, local media reported.

Joshua Frydenberg, the only Jewish lawmaker for the opposition Liberal Party, said he was disappointed.

"I think this will be of concern to a number of Jewish Australians," he said. "I think we should respect the High Holy Days of all religions.”

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australia, said although the prime minister perhaps was "remiss in not taking note of Yom Kippur," there will be a "welcome increase in pre-polling and observance of Shabbat across our entire community precisely because it is Yom Kippur."

Peter Wertheim, head of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said "it is not a major issue for us," while Nina Bassat, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria in Melbourne, described it as "a little bit disappointing."

Gillard’s Labor Party holds a slender grip on power in a coalition with the Greens, but most polls suggest the Liberals will win.

Federal elections have not clashed with Yom Kippur since the Australian Electoral Commission began logging election dates, Fairfax Media reported.

Australia has a Jewish population of 110,000.

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