Virginia GOP Rejects Religious Exemption To Allow Observant Jews To Vote In State Convention

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Dylan Housman General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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The Republican Party of Virginia voted against a rule Thursday night which would create a religious exemption for observant Jews to be able to participate in the party’s upcoming convention.

The Virginia GOP (VAGOP) will hold its 2021 convention Saturday, May 8, at which delegates will decide the party’s nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. A proposal to create accommodations for Jewish delegates who would not be able to participate due to Shabbat observance failed by a vote of 38 in favor to 28 against, with three abstentions. The change required 75% approval to be implemented.

The motion was brought forth after Jewish community members reached out to the VAGOP to request an exemption, party chairman Rich Anderson said at a state central committee meeting Thursday night. The motion proposed that Shabbat-observing members be allowed to vote in the same way military members are. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Virginia Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Glenn Youngkin Has Raised More Than $7.5 Million Since Launching Candidacy)

Advocates for the change argued that religious liberty is a core principle of the Republican Party. “This is the party that embraces religious conscience, and this is our time to do that,” said committee member Dennis Free.

“This is why people say we are not inclusive,” added Thomas Turner, chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Virginia. “Let my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community vote. Let them vote. We talk about voter integrity, and we’re trying to suppress the vote. This is exactly what this is.”

Opponents of the change said it could open up a can of worms for more dubious changes. “In the military, you have verification of who’s in the military and who qualifies for that… somebody could just say ‘Well, I’m not gonna be available, I’m gonna be on a trip or something, so I’m gonna vote as a religious group,” argued committee member Melvin Adams.

The nominations made at the May 8 convention will be crucial in the VAGOP’s attempt to regain power. Republicans have only won one gubernatorial election in Virginia since 1997, and have not won the state at the presidential level since 2004.