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American Israelis: Pro-vote group left us without absentee ballots

Supporters of both parties say iVote Israel failed to file requests, accuse organization of partisanship

American citizens vote in the upcoming US elections, at the OU center in Jerusalem. October 26, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
American citizens vote in the upcoming US elections, at the OU center in Jerusalem. October 26, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

A number of Americans living in Israel are complaining about iVote Israel, an organization founded by American Israelis to help expatriate Americans vote in US presidential elections.

Potential voters supporting both political parties say that requests for absentee ballots filed through iVote were never received by their local elections officials and they did not receive their ballots for next week’s election, Haaretz newspaper reported.

iVote Israel’s slogan is “Making Voting From Israel Easy.” According to its website, it is a project of Americans for Jerusalem, a registered 501(c)4, and does not support any specific candidate or candidate’s committee. According to Haaretz, the group was founded in 2012 ahead of the Obama-Romney presidential race by political activists with ties to the Republican Party.

The group offered drop boxes until Tuesday for filled-out ballots in 11 cities and towns in Israel to be returned postage free to the United States. Most of the drop boxes were in the country’s center, as well as Beersheba in southern Israel and the settlement of Efrat in the West Bank.

Marc Zell (left), from Republicans Overseas Israel, and Sheldon Schorer (right), from Democrats Abroad Israel, speaking to journalists in Jerusalem, September 27, 2016 (Raphael Ahren/TOI)
Marc Zell (left), from Republicans Overseas Israel, and Sheldon Schorer (right), from Democrats Abroad Israel, speaking to journalists in Jerusalem, September 27, 2016 (Raphael Ahren/TOI)

There also were boxes set up as much as three months ago to receive absentee ballot requests to be sent through the U.S. Embassy to potential voters’ districts. The group held voter registration events as well.

Potential voters, both Democrat and Republican, alleged to Haaretz that the group deliberately did not send in ballot requests because it favors the other side’s candidate — for example, those who signed up through a voter registration event in August in Tel Aviv, where more voters lean toward the Democratic candidate.

“iVote Israel does everything it can to make the voting process easier and is actively looking into the issue of ballots not arriving through our own channels, and has even been in touch with congressional leaders on these matters,” iVote Israel Director Eitan Charnoff told Haaretz.

“It is important to emphasize that the numbers of late ballots or ballots not arriving are lower than in 2012 and do not pertain to those who registered through iVote, as many who registered elsewhere have reached out to us for assistance as well,” he said.

Charnoff said the unsent ballots were likely due to voter request forms that were filled out illegibly or incorrectly.

Voting From Israel Made Easy – iVoteIsrael

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Posted by iVoteIsrael.com on Sunday, August 28, 2016

Some activists interviewed by Haaretz took issue with the claim, saying they either personally filled out the request for someone else who then signed it or reviewed the ballot request to ensure it was filled out correctly.

Americans living in Israel who did not receive ballots from their local board of elections can download and print out a federal write-in absentee ballot, which is valid in every state, and return it.

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