IDI Recruiting Celebs to Boost Voter Turnout

The Israel Democracy Institute is planning a campaign to encourage voting in the upcoming election, with methods ranging from celebrity broadcasts to toasting voters at local bars.

To help voters decide which party to vote for, it is offering an online system that purports to identify the party most closely aligned with the voter's views, based on a questionnaire comprised of 30 questions.

A decade ago, Israel's turnout rate stood at about 80 percent. After excluding people who have moved abroad, people who have died but not yet been removed from the voter rolls, and people who are too sick to vote, this translates into an effective rate of 90 percent. But the last two elections saw a sharp decline in turnout, to 69 percent in 2003 and 63.5 percent in 2006, and in the coming election, turnout might well fall below 60 percent - something that could raise questions about the legitimacy of the Knesset's mandate.

IDI President Arik Carmon said the goal of his institute's campaign is not only persuading people to vote, but persuading them to vote intelligently, rather than merely "voting against or casting a blank ballot." That is why it instituted the online system, modeled after one developed in Holland. In Holland's last election, fully one-third of eligible voters made use of the system, and in the recent American election, a similar system attracted 5 million eligible voters.

The campaign itself will feature advertisements in which celebrities urge people to vote - including reality television stars declaring that a real vote is the one cast at the ballot box, not by text message.

In addition, team captains will be asked to urge soccer fans to vote before every match, and pub owners will be asked to offer toasts to voters on February 9, the day before the elections.