Deceased Voters Still Haunt Israel

Dear departed voters. Between 2:00 and 4:00 A.M. the dead vote. This is just one of the jokes in the ultra-Orthodox community about the custom of coming back to life and exercising one's democratic right on Election Day. If the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approves regulations submitted by the Interior Ministry, the dead, or at least the "elderly" among them, will be denied the right to vote and will continue to rest in peace on Election Day as well.

In a report published in 2004, the state comptroller at the time, Eliezer Goldberg, examined the problem of the voting dead. He discovered that in the voters' rolls for the 16th Knesset (the 2003 elections), 2,829 people aged 110 to 179 were registered, whom he classified as "extremely elderly persons." Of these people, 938 had already celebrated their 120th birthday and were well underway in a second six score.

The State Comptroller's Office checked the voting data of about 400 of the so-called extremely elderly persons. Seven of them had voted. A further check revealed that they were not receiving old-age stipends from the National Insurance Institute (NII). "These findings and the advanced age of the elderly persons raise a reasonable suspicion that they are not among the living and that it was not they who voted in the elections," the state comptroller said.

Former Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin, then the chairman of the 16th Knesset Elections Committee, wrote: "Opportunity winks at the thief, and cheating in the elections happens easily."

Last month the director general of the Interior Ministry, Arieh Bar, sent to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee regulations to help solve the problem of the voting dead. Under the regulations, people over 110 who do not receive an NII old-age stipend will be viewed as "inhabitants who are considered inactive."

They will be sent notification of the intention to remove their address from the population registry. Anyone who does not respond within 60 days will have his address deleted and will not be assigned to a polling station. "The regulations will help reduce the phenomenon of voting under false pretenses," Bar wrote.

And what about the youngsters? In 2005 the Interior Ministry identified a group of 11,000 people over 100 who have the right to vote, of whom only about 600 were receiving NII stipends. The regulations allow dead people who have not reached 110 to continue to vote unhindered. The head of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), believes it is also necessary to block voting by the younger dead. In his view, the regulations are only a first step.