IDF soldiers began voting Saturday night, three days ahead of the rest of the country, at a polling station at the Kirya Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv.
On Sunday and Monday, another 60 military ballots will be open, and on Tuesday, election day, 600 fixed polling stations, as well as 150 mobile units, will be open for army units, Israel Radio reported. In total, some 800 fixed and mobile ballot stations will be open for military units by Tuesday.
Colonel Avi Baruch, in charge of the elections at the IDF, said that the goal is for “every soldier, everywhere, to exercise their right to choose.” On election day, an IDF command room will also be set up to help sort out any problems that arise on that date.
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who had instructed that information be disseminated to young soldiers about the elections, called on the rookie voting soldiers to cast their ballot and influence their country.
The IDF soldiers were not, however, the first Israelis to vote.
For 4,290 Israeli diplomats stationed in 96 embassies and consulates around the globe, elections started late January 9, Israeli time, and continued throughout January 10 until 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur, was the first Israeli to cast a ballot in the elections to the 19th Knesset, followed by about eight other Israeli diplomats based in sunny Wellington, New Zealand.
“Elections are always something very important, and we happen to have the good fortune to be the first ones doing it. This is really very moving,” Tzur said. “We’re a small team far from Jerusalem. But today we feel very close.”
“The average number of ballots from an embassy or a consulate is about 40,” said Alon Shoham, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s consular division, who also currently runs the ministry’s election process. “Our consulate in New York is the largest, with 700 ballots. And then we have a number of places with just one ballot. Even if there is just person who’s eligible to vote — it’s his right to vote like that of everybody else.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.