Election czar urges probes into voting fraud at 30 polling stations

Election czar urges probes into voting fraud at 30 polling stations

Melcer also passes along testimony from poll watchers who said they arrived at posts on election day to find someone else already there claiming to be them

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
File: Officials count the ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general election, April 10, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Central Elections Committee chairman Hanan Melcer on Wednesday urged the attorney general and police chief to weigh opening investigations into voter fraud at 30 polling stations during last month’s election.

In a letter he penned to Avichai Mandelblit and Motti Cohen, Melcer said his recommendation was based on information passed on to his committee by outside sources as well as the election body’s own review process, which “pointed at irregularities” in the ballot count at 30 polling stations.

Problematic ballot locations were tagged in the Arab towns of Yarka, Fureidis, Shfaram, Arara, Sakhnin, Kafr Qassem and Arraba, as well as the mixed or largely Jewish locales of Beit Shemesh, Karmiel and Haifa.

Melcer also passed along information regarding individuals suspected of voting twice in Jisr az-Zarqa, Deir al-Asad, Haifa and Lapid, a small community near Modiin.

Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh, left, filming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a discussion on the cameras bill at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on September 11, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The election czar’s letter to Mandelblit and Cohen also included a complaint by a private individual who said that poll watchers from the Democratic Camp and Labor parties arrived at their respective ballot stations to find individuals already there using their identities. Haaretz reported last month that activists from the United Torah Judaism party were among those caught pretending to be polling officials for other parties, allowing the ultra-Orthodox party to have more than one representative on the polling committee, which is against election regulations.

Lastly, Melcer attached complaints submitted by the Likud and Pirate party regarding additional accusations of voter fraud reported by their poll watchers on election day.

Melcer asked the attorney general and police chief to reach a decision regarding whether or not to open criminal probes within a month’s time.

A week after the September 17 election, Hebrew media reported that the son of a Likud MK was being investigated on suspicion that he tampered with votes during last week’s elections.

President Reuven Rivlin (R) receives the official results from the elections for the 22nd Knesset from Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, the head of the Central Elections Committee, at his official residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The suspect is an Israel Defense Forces soldier and was being investigated by military police. The soldier allegedly damaged or hid voting slips for the centrist Blue and White party. He was not named by the media report.

The case was one of several investigations involving military voting stations, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Voter fraud became a major issue in the last elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly warned of alleged rampant fraud in Israel’s Arab communities in an ostensible effort to drum up votes for his Likud party.

There were several disruptions reported during the voting, Central Elections Committee director Orly Adas said at the time, many of them related to illicit filming at polling stations.

Police shut down three polling places in the Druze village of Yarka in northern Israel on September 17 out of concern for election fraud. Police had received a report about alleged attempts to stuff ballot boxes with voting envelopes.

In Sakhnin as well, a polling station was briefly shut over a fraud allegation.

During the April elections, Likud observers brought hidden body cams into 1,200 polling stations in Arab areas. The committee barred it from repeating such a scheme on election day in September.

During last month’s vote, Netanyahu’s party leaked to the press that it had installed “facial recognition cameras” at the entrances to Arab town polling booths in what was widely believed as an attempt to intimidate the minority from heading to the polls.

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