Elections panel to send observers with cameras to problematic polling stations
Judge blocks group from busing 15,000 Bedouins to polls

Elections panel to send observers with cameras to problematic polling stations

Oversight committee maps out places of concern, with unusually high turnout as one of the criteria; reportedly has not been able to recruit all the monitors it wanted

The Central Elections Committee counts ballots from soldiers and absentee voters at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 10, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
The Central Elections Committee counts ballots from soldiers and absentee voters at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 10, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Central Election Committee has mapped out supposedly problematic polling stations around the country and will send specially appointed monitors, equipped with cameras, to them in a bid to prevent any irregularities on election day.

The monitors are to film and report any unusual events during voting or the later counting of the results. In total, the Committee will deploy 3,000 representatives to monitor the vote nationwide.

Also Sunday, committee chair Judge Hanan Melecer barred a left-wing group from busing some 15,000 Bedouins to the polls.

Voter fraud has become a focus of attention ahead of this week’s election with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party having repeatedly claimed that alleged rampant fraud in Arab communities during a previous April vote prevented him from forming a majority coalition.

Despite their strident claims, police investigations from April’s vote have found minimal tampering, and that such abuse as there was benefited Netanyahu’s Likud and the ultra-Orthodox Shas parties.

Various criteria were used by the election committee to determine which stations are considered problematic, according to a Kan news report Sunday. One of the measures was stations which have shown an unusually high voter turnout in previous elections.

The report did not say how many monitors would be deployed or how many polling stations they will keep tabs on.

While there are some 3,000 body cameras for the monitors to use, there are not enough personnel available to deploy them all, the report said.

The committee had hoped to enlist 700 attorneys to take part in the scheme but although the Israel Bar Association submitted 1,400 names, the committee disqualified several hundred.

Netanyahu has also warned his political rivals “want to steal” the fresh round of elections from him by opposing his efforts to quickly legislate permission for political party activists to bring cameras into polling stations to record proceedings.

To counter the alleged voter fraud, Netanyahu championed a bill to allow political parties to bring in recording devices to polling stations, but it failed to pick up sufficient support to make it past a preliminary vote last week.

The government advanced the proposed legislation despite the opposition of the attorney general, the head of the Central Elections Committee, and the Knesset’s legal adviser.

However, in response to the Likud demands to deploy cameras the elections committee decided to establish its own new independent body of poll watchers to prevent voter fraud.

A hidden camera allegedly snuck into a polling station in an Arab town by a Likud observer during parliamentary elections on April 9, 2019. (Courtesy Hadash-Ta’al)

Last week, a group of settler and national religious leaders launched an online fundraising campaign for an initiative they titled “Gatekeepers.” Organizers hope to use the cash raised to pay wages for hundreds of individuals recruited to stand outside polling stations in ballot stations in Arab towns and cities. The initiative is designed to “protect” the polling committee officials representing right-wing parties inside, organizers maintained.

On Sunday Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, who chairs the elections committee, turned down a request by Netanyahu to meet with him to discuss his claim of Arab voter fraud.

In statement refusing the meeting, the committee cited its “tight schedule” just two days before the September 17 vote, “and the fact that the committee is not an investigative body and does not have any concrete authority to instruct the police.”

Last week Kan reported that police only found sufficient evidence to justify a criminal investigation at one of 140 polling stations flagged by Likud for alleged fraudulent activity by Israel’s Arab minority.

Also Sunday, Melcer ruled that the Zazim rights group cannot arrange buses for Bedouin voters in the southern Negev region of the country so that they can reach polling stations. In response to a Likud petition against the plan, Mecler ruled that Zazim would first have to register as a group active in the elections, noting that the motivation for the busing was political and not merely a case of boosting transportation.

Melcer gave Zazim until Monday afternoon to register or forgo their plan to bus some 15,000 Bedouins to voting stations. Many Bedouins live in informal settlements in the Negev desert.

In April’s elections, Likud equipped some 1,200 polling officials working at ballot stations in Arab population centers with hidden body cameras to prevent what the party claimed was unchecked fraud in the community. The election committee has since banned their use. Critics said the cameras were just a ploy to scare Arab voters away from polling stations so that they would not cast their ballot.

Also Sunday prosecutors announced that they intend to indict an election official representing the ultra-Orthodox Shas party for election fraud during the previous national vote.

Mohamed Diab, one of four chairmen of the polling committee at a voting station in the northern city of Tamra, added at least seven ballot slips after polls closed during elections on April 9, prosecutors said in a statement.

Diab will be charged with crimes of harming the integrity of the elections, pending a hearing.

Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition after the April vote and so dissolved parliament, calling fresh elections for September.

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