Australia Holding 2013 Elections on Yom Kippur

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Australia scheduled its national elections for Yom Kippur this year, leaving the country’s population of some 110,000 Jews facing a decision of whether to vote on Election Day or to find an alternative arrangement for submitting their ballot.

The September 14 date was announced Wednesday by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Labour Party.

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

Since the country’s elections take place on Saturdays, Sabbath-observing Jews vote by mail or at pre-poll booths. This year, with the date also coinciding with Yom Kippur, more Australian Jews are expected to follow course.

Michael Danby, a Jewish lawmaker from the ruling Labour 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 Labour 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's Prime Minister Julia Gillard.Credit: Reuters

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