Scores of lawyers still scouring ballots to ensure accurate final result
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Scores of lawyers still scouring ballots to ensure accurate final result

Prior to presentation of final tally to President Rivlin on Wednesday, lawyers and Central Elections Committee officials work into the night to review 2,000 polling stations

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Lawyers at the Knesset in Jerusalem check votes cast during elections on September 17, in a final review prior to presentation of the results to President Reuven Rivlin, September 23, 2019. (Sue Surkes).
Lawyers at the Knesset in Jerusalem check votes cast during elections on September 17, in a final review prior to presentation of the results to President Reuven Rivlin, September 23, 2019. (Sue Surkes).

In the run-up to presenting the final election results to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, some 70 lawyers and committee officials sat Monday in various Knesset rooms picking through piles of blue envelopes containing voter slips, in an attempt to ensure the integrity of the ballot and identify any irregularities that might have been missed.

The exercise, under the auspices of the Central Elections Committee, began the day after the September 17 election and was due to continue into the early hours of Tuesday morning, after which the data was to be analyzed and packaged.

It is not expected to change the allocation of Knesset seats, but aims to ensure that the results are as accurate as possible.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 1,600 of the country’s approximately 11,000 polling stations had been reviewed (some were reviewed more than once, some partially and others thoroughly), and the hope was to reach 2,000 polling stations, Central Elections Committee director general Orly Ades said.

Around 500 polling stations were chosen at random, with the rest red-lighted upon reports of suspected irregularity made by officials or members of the public to the committee or the police on election day.

Checking votes in a final attempt to reach as accurate an election result as possible, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, September 23, 2019. (Sue Surkes)

The Central Elections Committee received 1,529 complaints from the public, of which 880 were already dealt with. In one example, a couple who said they knew they were the only ones in their community to vote for a particular party found that their vote was missing from a published report.

The lawyers and officials were looking for everything from mistakes made by tired polling station secretaries in minutes kept (several dozen were found and have been corrected) to anomalies, such as one polling station registering dramatically different results from several others in the same location, Ades explained.

Results from 15 polling stations in the Arab towns of Yarka and Sakhnin were being pored over by a special investigations unit in a separate room in an attempt to understand what happened there on election day, she added.

On the basis of the results, Committee Chairman Judge Hanan Melcer will decide Tuesday whether to refer cases of alleged election tampering to the police.

Police shut down three polling places in the Druze village of Yarka in northern Israel on election day, out of concern for election fraud. Police received a report about alleged attempts to stuff ballot boxes with voting envelopes.

In Sakhnin as well, a polling station was briefly shut over a fraud allegation.

Central Elections Committee director general Orly Ades pictured at the Knesset in Jerusalem, September 23, 2019. (Sue Surkes)

Around 11,000 polling stations were operating in total and this post-election review was the most extensive carried out after any election to date, Ades said.

“For us, the elections aren’t over yet,” Ades said. “We are happy and certain that all the checks that the Central Elections Committee has undertaken since last Tuesday and all the protective steps that were taken on election day will lead to results that reflect, in the full meaning of the word, the voters’ will.”

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