Yisrael Beytenu seeks to install cameras at ultra-Orthodox voting stations

Yisrael Beytenu seeks to install cameras at ultra-Orthodox voting stations

MK Oded Forer says rumors of ‘dead people’ casting ballots demands preventative action by Central Elections Committee on election day

Illustrative: An ultra-Orthodox man casts his vote at a polling station during general elections on March 17, 2015. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
Illustrative: An ultra-Orthodox man casts his vote at a polling station during general elections on March 17, 2015. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

The Yisrael Beytenu party wants surveillance cameras to be installed at ultra-Orthodox polling stations in the upcoming Septemer elections as a measure against voter fraud, a party lawmaker said Wednesday.

During a previous national election earlier this year, the ruling Likud party was caught running a covert camera scheme at Arab polling stations, allegedly to prevent fraud. The plan was uncovered on election day in April, and allowed to continue by the judge overseeing the vote, but was criticized as a form of voter intimidation.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer told Channel 12 news on Wednesday he intends to ask the Central Elections Committee to install cameras at ultra-Orthodox polling stations to “make sure that the ultra-Orthodox don’t cheat on election day.”

“The unusual voting percentages, more than 80 percent, and the rumors that even dead people come and vote demand close monitoring,” Forer said.

Forer added that his right-wing secularist party plans to have its activists posted as observers at voting stations in the ultra-Orthodox community on election day.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer attends a discussion held at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem on July 7, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu has made a central plank of its election campaign the championing of secular rights in the face of what it deems religious hegemony over key elements of Israeli life. It was Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman’s refusal to join a Netanyahu-led coalition in May over disagreements with ultra-Orthodox parties that led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call new elections.

“We want to to draw the line that has been breached and time after time leads Israel towards becoming an halachic [religious law] state,” Forer told the television channel.

During the April 9 elections, Likud equipped some 1,200 polling officials working at ballot stations in Arab population centers with hidden body cameras to prevent what the party claims is rampant fraud.

Critics have charged that Likud’s efforts in the previous elections were a form of voter intimidation designed to keep the non-Jewish minority from the polls, a claim seemingly corroborated by the company contracted by Likud to carry out the operation.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit gave a legal opinion that the Likud hidden camera campaign could constitute a criminal offense.

Mandelblit submitted the opinion ahead of an elections committee hearing on whether to allow Likud to resume its operation, begun in April, in the upcoming September 17 election.

Likud rejected the opinion and claimed any guidance “that does not allow voting supervision at the polling stations is unacceptable.”

In April, Hanan Melcer, the Supreme Court justice who heads the elections committee, okayed the use of such devices in cases where there was “considerable fear” of voter fraud, but did not explicitly outline what would justify “considerable fear.” His ruling came on election day, after Likud poll workers were caught with the hidden cameras.

The Times of Israel obtained records from over 100 polling stations that were found to have irregular voter turnouts relative to the figures at adjacent stations. While a portion of those polling stations were located in Arab towns, these made up for less than a third of the total, which also included irregular turnouts in the ultra-Orthodox settlements of Modiin Illit and Beitar Illit as well as the towns of Petah Tikva, Afula, Netanya and Rosh Ha’ayin.

Those records have also been transferred to the Central Elections Committee, but no indictments have been filed on the matter. According to a legal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the total number of fraudulent votes in April only added up to several thousand.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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