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Breaking rules, Cabinet sec. Braverman tweets his Likud vote

Several parties assert election irregularities, with voting in full swing

Complaints of missing voting slips at various polling stations around country; Central Elections Committee denies rumor of glitch in observer communication app

Voting slips for Knesset elections on March 23, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
Voting slips for Knesset elections on March 23, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)

As Israelis continued to head to polling stations around the country Tuesday afternoon, several parties reported problems with their voting slips at some locations.

In the Israeli electoral system, voters select a ballot representing their preferred party from an array, then put it in an envelope that will be counted.

The New Hope party filed a formal complaint with the Central Elections Committee claiming that its ballots had been removed from several stations in Haifa, Sderot, Yavne and Ramle. They called the disappearances “systematic” and “nationwide.”

Meanwhile, at least two ballot stations, one in Haifa and the other in Beersheba, reported the disappearance of ballots for the predominantly Arab Joint List party.

Yisrael Beytenu reported that its ballot notes in two polling stations in Ashkelon had been hidden underneath slips for the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and the Likud party.

The Religious Zionism Party said that its ballot slips were disappearing from polling stations in ultra-Orthodox areas of Ashdod, as well as from other sites in Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva, according to the Srugim website.

Meanwhile, police reported isolated incidents of irregularities including suspicions of forged voting at a number of locations around the country, as well as banned campaigning activities in several places that were quickly dealt with by officers.

Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman was to face an inquiry by the Civil Service Commission, after he shared a photo of who he was voting for. Braverman tweeted a photo of himself voting for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

As a public servant rather than a political official, Braverman is barred from publicly endorsing a political party, even though he was formerly a prominent Likud activist and campaigner.

Complaints also surfaced on social media of election observers arriving late at some stations and voters who said they had received envelopes for their ballot slips that someone had marked with a pen.

Ballot envelopes cannot have any distinguishing markings on them whatsoever. Any envelopes marked in any way are disqualified for fear of fraud. Voters who are handed a marked envelope at the ballot station are advised to throw it out immediately and demand another envelope from polling station staff.

The Central Elections Committee said it was notified of at least 31 incidents of attempted voter fraud.

These included an attempt to vote as another person, an attempt to vote with more than one envelope, and several attempts to vote under the identity of a deceased person.

Some 20 voters also cast their ballots in envelopes that lacked the necessary signature by an election worker.

Central Elections Committee director Orly Adas during a press conference at the Knesset on December 5, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Central Elections Committee director Orly Adas was forced to issue a denial after the right-wing activist group Im Tirtzu claimed that there were problems with the communication application used for election observers, Channel 13 reported.

“There is no glitch,” Adas said in a statement, noting that even if there had been a problem, there was a separate reporting system to notify the committee of any irregularities.

“This is another of the disgusting attempts to tarnish the good name of the elections committee,” said Adas, who a day earlier warned of growing efforts to delegitimize the results of the vote.

A suspicious package was found next to a polling station in Tel Aviv, prompting police to temporarily close the site and evacuate dozens of voters, the Walla news website reported.

In other incidents, graffiti targeting public figures was found near a polling station in Tel Aviv, police said. Eggs and other objects were thrown at police officers stationed at a polling site in the city of Beit Shemesh. One object hit an officer and police were searching for the culprits.

Police also received a report of a man who refused to wear a mask when he arrived at a polling station. Officers who were called to the scene arrested the man after discovering that he was supposed to be in quarantine and therefore should not have been at the station at all. The man was issued a fine for violating isolation rules.

A polling station during elections for the Knesset for people under COVID-19 quarantine in Tel Aviv, on March 23, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Special voting sites have been set up for coronavirus patients and those who are in isolation. However, the strong winds that swept the country overnight blew down tents erected at some of the sites, Kan news reported. In places where it was not possible to repair the damage, a bus was brought in to house the polling booth instead.

Quarantined people are to vote at 342 stations especially set aside for them while special shuttles have been arranged for active virus patients to take them to designated polling stations. The patients can only vote in those stations, which are designed to prevent infections, and they can only arrive using the state-run shuttles.

The election — the fourth in two years — was called after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline. The election, like the previous three votes, is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule, given his ongoing trial on corruption charges, as well as his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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