Israeli diplomats and emissaries worldwide kick off March elections
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2020 Elections

Israeli diplomats and emissaries worldwide kick off March elections

Some 5,200 Israelis stationed abroad begin casting ballots; first to vote in country’s third election in a year is Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Itzhak Gerberg, Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand casts his vote on February 19, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand (Israel Foreign Ministry)
Itzhak Gerberg, Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand casts his vote on February 19, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand (Israel Foreign Ministry)

Israeli diplomats have begun voting in the national elections, with the first ballot cast by Israel’s ambassador in Wellington, New Zealand on Wednesday morning.

While the vast majority of Israel’s 6.3 million eligible voters will have to wait until March 2 before they can cast their ballots in the third election in a year, some 5,200 Israelis stationed in 96 embassies and consulates will be able to vote from 8 a.m to 9 p.m., their local time, on Wednesday.

The vote started in New Zealand at 9 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Israel on Tuesday) and will slowly roll westward, ending in San Francisco some 30 hours later, the Foreign Ministry said.

According to Israeli law, private citizens living abroad cannot vote unless they come to Israel. But the exception made for diplomats also applies to emissaries sent abroad by the Jewish Agency, KKL-JNF, Keren Hayesod and the World Zionist Organization. In addition, their spouses and children (aged 18-20) can also cast ballots abroad.

To manage the vote, every embassy has a mini-election committee of sorts, which usually consists of the consul and another high-ranking official, preferably not from the Foreign Ministry but rather a military or cultural attache. Every voter enters the voting booth and places their ballot in a sealed envelope. They then exit the booth and the envelope is placed in a second envelope with the voter’s name and identity number on it.

Then, all the envelopes are sent to Jerusalem, where they are held in a safe until Election Day. Members of the Knesset’s election committee then look at the names on the envelopes and check back with the polling stations where the citizen is registered to ensure they haven’t voted twice.

The first sealed envelope containing the voting slip is then placed in a special ballot box, together with all the other envelopes from abroad. After the polls close in Israel and the counting starts, the diplomats’ box is counted as well.

This is the third election in a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition in both the April and September elections and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz failed to form a government following the September vote.

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