Election panel denies Likud petition to limit disabled voting to areas of residence

Committee chair says change would require Knesset legislation; critics slam Likud for trying to limit ability of disabled to vote; party says loophole exploited by others

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Voting booth in Iksal, an Arab town near Nazareth, on April 9, 2019. (Adam Rasgon/ Times of Israel)
Voting booth in Iksal, an Arab town near Nazareth, on April 9, 2019. (Adam Rasgon/ Times of Israel)

The Central Elections Committee struck down a petition by the Likud requesting to limit the right of disabled people to vote at wheelchair-accessible booths across the entire country.

Ilan Bombach, the Likud’s representative on the election panel, submitted the petition Thursday, requesting that committee chair Isaac Amit restrict disabled citizens’ right to use the special voting booths to cities where they are registered as residents, as opposed to anywhere in the country.

Israeli citizens are required to vote at their assigned polling station that corresponds with their official residential address.

However, people with disabilities who are unable to access their assigned station on election day can vote at special-access booths anywhere in the country.

Bombach said the idea behind the petition was to reduce the “misuse of wheelchair-accessible polling stations,” stating that people without disabilities falsely declare they are physically unable to reach their booth in order to vote at stations that are not assigned to them.

“Experience shows that there is a very widespread phenomenon of utilizing accessible booths and signing false statements that the voter is disabled. The idea is to limit voting to the city of residence of the disabled person,” Bombach said and charged that the law did not specifically give disabled citizens the right to vote all across the country.

Amit, a Supreme Court justice, rejected the request, emphasizing that such a change required Knesset legislation.

“I surprisingly received the letter in which I was requested to act contrary to the law and an expressed section of a law,” Amit said.

Knesset member Karine Elharrar speaks during a culture event in Kfar Yona on March 9, 2019. (Flash90)

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli panned the petition, and accused the Likud of trying to prevent disabled people from voting,

“What kind of heartlessness and evil is needed in order to request to make it harder for people who already have it tough?” she tweeted.

Energy Minister Karine Elharra, who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, tweeted: “The Likud is requesting to harm the rights of people with disabilities? Why should we be surprised? Their natural partners are Ben Gvir and Smotrich, who want to return women to the kitchen and hold a parade mocking the LGBT community.”

Israelis head to the polls on November 1 to vote in the fifth election since 2019.

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