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Cleveland – Jewish voters object to new voting place

Some Cleveland Ohio Orthodox Jews are upset with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for moving their voting place from a public school building to a Christian church. 

Rabbi Sruly Wolf, 55, of Cleveland Heights, said the move will keep hundreds of Jewish voters from casting ballots because they are uncomfortable going into places of worship other than their own.

“The biggest issue is that it was done without consulting anybody,” said Wolf. “It’s insensitivity, at best. At worst, it’s anti-Semitic.”

Elections Director Michael Vu said the board has polling places in 149 churches and one synagogue throughout the county. He said this is the first time he has heard concerns about voting in a religious place.

“It’s not in the sanctuary,” he said. “It’s in the fellowship hall.”

The original polling place had been at Millikin Early Childhood Center, which was closed this year by the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District.

The polling place, which included two precincts, was in the heart of a neighborhood that is heavily populated by Orthodox Jewish residents.

The location was moved to the Euclid Avenue Christian Church on Mayfield Road, just outside the neighborhood.

Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley, a Catholic, is leading a fight to find another voting place for his Jewish constituents, but Vu said Friday that the board’s decision cannot be changed before the November election.

Kelley won’t accept that. “This is getting close to anti-Semitism,” he said, lashing out at Vu. “I wish [the board] would fire him. I’ll pay for his plane ticket back to Salt Lake City” — where Vu previously lived.

Kelley said he received more than a dozen calls from Jewish activists upset with the move. He said the Elections Board could have moved the polling place into one of three existing voting sites in the neighborhood — two school buildings and an apartment building.

Vu said that would have caused overcrowding. He said Jewish voters uncomfortable with going to the church site can vote absentee.

“I am very sensitive to religious issues,” said Vu, a Catholic. “On the other side of this issue is our ability to conduct an election.”


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