A controversial bill that would allow party operatives to bring cameras into polling stations during next week’s elections failed to gain a majority in the Knesset Regulatory committee Monday, leaving the Likud-proposed legislation without an immediate path to become law before the September 17 vote.
In the committee vote on a motion to shorten the normal legislative process so that the bill would not have to wait the usual 48 hours before a Knesset vote, MKs were tied 12-12, with Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers voting against it, stymieing the proposal and preventing it from facing a scheduled first reading in the plenum later in the day.
The so-called Security Cameras Law would have allowed representatives of Likud and other parties to bring cameras into polling stations, despite staunch opposition from the attorney general, the Central Elections Committee, and the Knesset’s legal adviser.
Speaking to reporters at the Knesset ahead of a faction meeting, Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman called the legislation being pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an effort to steal the September 17 vote.
“What Netanyahu is trying to pass is not a voter observer bill; it is an election-stealing bill,” Liberman said.
He said his right-wing party supported placing cameras at polling stations to prevent voter fraud, but would only support such measures if they were introduced by the Knesset, not by an individual party.
“This kind of oversight should not be managed by Netanyahu’s personal militia, who from the outset are not there to monitor voting, but to interfere in the election process and alter the results,” Liberman charged.
Netanyahu’s cabinet on Sunday unanimously approved the legislation, with the prime minister insisting the bill was only intended to prevent voter fraud. Critics, however, maintained that the bill was a an attempt to intimidate Arab voters ahead of the September 17 poll.
Despite the legal opposition, Netanyahu had vowed to pass the bill, which would allow poll watchers from competing political parties to bring cameras into polling stations during the upcoming elections.
On Sunday the Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, called the bill “unconstitutional.” He argued in his legal opinion presented to lawmakers that it would provide an unfair advantage to the Likud party, which already has in its possession over 1,000 body cameras that it used to surveil polling stations in Arab towns during the April election.
During the April 9 vote, Likud equipped some 1,200 polling officials working at ballot stations in Arab population centers with hidden body cameras to prevent what the party claims was rampant fraud that has occurred in the community.
Even if it were to have passed in the Knesset, analysts say it was unlikely the bill could have be implemented in time for the September 17 vote, as the government would have found it difficult to defend it in court given the opposition from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the Knesset elections panel.
Criticizing the legislative effort as “aberrant and flawed,” Mandelblit last week warned ministers the bill would undermine “the exercise of the fundamental right to vote and also the implementation of the legal obligation to conduct free, secret and equal elections.”