Over 235,000 votes thrown in trash

Between disqualified ballots and votes for parties that did not make the threshhold, most notably Yachad, some 5.5 percent of voters won’t have their voices count

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A ballot being counted for the pro-marijuana Green Leaf party, which did not cross the electoral threshold, on March 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A ballot being counted for the pro-marijuana Green Leaf party, which did not cross the electoral threshold, on March 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Over 5.5 percent of votes cast in the elections for the 20th Knesset didn’t serve any purpose, according to the final results.

With the inclusion of absentee ballots from soldiers, medical personnel and Israeli representatives abroad, almost a quarter of a million votes — 235,191 — were either cast for parties that did not pass the threshold to enter the parliament or were disqualified.

More than half of that comes from the 124,984 votes cast for the far-right Yachad party led by Eli Yishai. Yachad received 2.97% of the vote, failing to hit the 3.25% electoral threshold for entry to the Knesset by just over 10,000 votes.

Its inability to enter the Knesset also had an ironic consequence for the nationalistic party: the subtraction of Yachad’s votes from the total of valid votes gave greater proportional weight to the votes received by far-left Meretz party, something of a sworn enemy for Yachad.

That ultimately bumped Meretz up five seats in the Knesset instead of four it was thought to have won.

The electoral threshold was raised from 1% to 1.5% in 1988, to 2% in 2003 and up to its current 3.25% in March 2014. Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, championed the bill to change the threshold in order to create “a government that can make decisions and is not busy performing maintenance chores on the coalition all of the time.”

The pro-marijuana legalization Green Leaf party received just over 1% of the vote, far below the number now needed to get into Knesset and even below what was required before the change in the Knesset’s Basic Law. This is the sixth election since the party’s formation in 1999 that the Green Leaf party has failed to enter the Knesset.

Another 43,848 votes were disqualified on procedural grounds.

The remaining 19,296 votes were cast for a variety of small parties: the Arab List — not to be confused with the Joint List, which received 13 seats in the Knesset — received 4,530 votes; the Green party, which champions environmental causes, earned 3,426; the Hasidic “We are all friends, Na Nach” party got 2,497; the ultra-Orthodox women’s party Bizchutan (In Their Merit) received 1,976; the Israeli-Arab Hope for Change party got 1,519; the Economy party earned 1,050; and another seven, even smaller, parties each earned less than 1,000 votes.

The anti-pornography “Protecting Our Children — Stop Feeding Them Porno” party bowed out of the race on March 11, putting its support behind Naftali Bennett’s Jewish home party, so technically it earned zero votes, but the true losingest party was Ilan Meshicha Yar Zanbar’s “Social Leadership,” which received a scant 223 votes of the 4,253,336 cast, or just 0.005%.

There’s always next time.

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