Beit Shemesh activist arrested on suspicion of offering cash for votes

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Campaign workers in Beit Shemesh. (Sam Sokol)
Campaign workers in Beit Shemesh. (Sam Sokol)

Police arrest a second Beit Shemesh resident on suspicion of voter fraud for allegedly offering money to residents who planned on staying home on election day in order to induce them to vote for a candidate of his choice.

According to police, the unnamed suspect is an activist campaigning on behalf of one of the parties contesting the local election. His arrest comes less than a day after the Jerusalem District Police’s fraud unit detained another Beit Shemesh resident also suspected of offering cash for votes.

A number of other suspects were also detained “and the extent of their involvement” is currently being probed by law enforcement, the police stated.

Apparently in response to initial reports of election fraud attempts, volunteers at the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael party’s local campaign headquarters received instructions to report suspicious activity to police while canvassing at polling stations.

Agudat Yisrael has come out in support of former mayor Moshe Abutbul, the Shas candidate.

During the 2013 election, local police discovered hundreds of identity cards in an apartment and car believed to belong to supporters of Abutbul, as well as a cache of clothing that apparently served to disguise individuals who voted multiple times on election day.

Investigators suspected that Shaya Brand, an associate of Abutbul, had organized a plan to identify nonvoters and pay them for their identity cards so that Abutbul supporters could use them to cast fraudulent ballots.

In response, the Jerusalem District Court ordered new elections, which Abutbul won with 51 percent of the vote.

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