Israelis to get day off to vote in local elections
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Israelis to get day off to vote in local elections

Bill that aims to improve sagging voter turnout advances to final vote in Knesset

An ultra-Orthodox man votes at a polling station during Israel’s municipal elections, October 22, 2013. (photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
An ultra-Orthodox man votes at a polling station during Israel’s municipal elections, October 22, 2013. (photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee on Monday approved a bill which would make the day of municipal elections a national holiday — part of an effort to improve voter turnout in those elections, which has sagged in recent years.

Many government services, including schools, public health and parks, are managed by local governments.

In the 2013 municipal elections, just 51 percent of eligible voters arrived at the polls, down from 83% in 1965. Only 35.9% voted in Jerusalem and only 31.3% in Tel Aviv. In Haifa and Beersheba turnout was at 45% and 39.8% respectively. In contrast, turnout in the 2013 national parliamentary elections was 68%.

“Voting data indicates a relatively low turnout rate of residents in these elections for several reasons, with the [lack of] a holiday being one of them,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement Monday. “Low turnout leads directly to a drop in legitimacy for local leadership and a drop in the electoral threshold, and therefore to great difficulties in running the municipal system.”

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said “the local elections are no less important than the elections to the Knesset and it’s vital to take steps to raise voting numbers.”

The bill must now pass second and third readings at the Knesset plenum before it is written into law.

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