Elections committee chair rules Likud’s filming of Arab polling stations illegal

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, who chairs the Central Elections Committee, delivers a sweeping decision prohibiting political parties from carrying out mass surveillance at polling stations on election day.

Likud boasted after the April election that it had deployed 1,200 body cameras hidden on the shirts of its polling station monitors in Arab towns, in an apparent bid to catch Arab voter fraud and claim the election results — presumably if they tilted against the party — were corrupted by massive fraud.

Critics said the effort was a bid to depress Arab voter turnout. Proponents insisted the Arab community was rife with such fraud.

The ruling party apparently failed to find such fraud on election day, as no videos of cheating have yet surfaced from the effort.

In his decision, delivered only moments ago, Melcer expressly forbids anyone who is not the Central Elections Committee itself from deploying cameras at polling stations, and warns that holding such footage or even simply looking at it might be a criminal offense. He says allowing such surveillance would require passing legislation expressly permitting it. He also orders the formation of a special unit under the aegis of the Central Elections Committee that will monitor and, in cases where it is deemed necessary, have to sole power to film polling stations, with severe limits on how the footage is used and who can see it.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is cited in Melcer’s decision as supporting it.

Likud had boasted that it planned an even larger surveillance operation on September 17, and has already reportedly spent millions purchasing the cameras and training staffers.

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