Israeli Election Board Loosens Ballot Supervisor Prerequisites Blasted as anti-Arab

Contractor came under fire when it said workers must have completed full military service, locking out most ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs

Election Committee members check ballots in Jerusalem, April 14, 2019.
Emil Salman

Israel's election board has set new criteria after the company tasked recruiting workers to supervise the upcoming election came under fire for having a requirement that workers must have completed full mlilitary service, effectively barring most ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs.

The board's spokesman said that it had not signed off on the original prerequisite, and that it order the change to allow for members of all communities in Israel to be hired.

He added the company involved used it because it was typical for its usual recruitment for security guards. 

Workers must now meet one of the following four criteria: having completed fully military service; having served in Israel's police force for at least 18 months; having served in a non-enemy country's military, conditioned on the availability of original documents testifying to this; and having been licensed by police to work as a security guard. 

>> Read more: Last Israeli election was riddled with irregularities and suspected voting fraud, Haaretz investigation reveals ■ No cameras this time | Editorial

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said it welcomed the decision to loosen the criteria. The NGO described the incident as evidence that the election board's use of outside services opened up the potential for racism and discrimination. It called for the board to actively work to recruit observers from all segments of society. 

United Torah Judaism lawmaker Uri Maklev said that even under these less stringent requirements, ultra-Orthodox citizens would stil have a hard time being supervsors. "All the twisting and embarrassing evasions and explanations only emphasize the aforementioned discrimination and the need to change it," he said. 

Earlier, lawmakers from Arab-majority alliance Joint List said the military service prerequisite discriminates against Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who typically do not serve in the Israeli military. They demanded that Elections Committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer rescind the prerequisite.

The supervisory unit of the "Team 3" company is responsible for filming ballot box activity to avoid voter fraud. 

“This condition is improper and irrelevant. It violates the Basic Law on the Freedom of Occupation, excluding two population groups (Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox) from the Election Day labor force,” lawmakers Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi said in a statement. The two called the company's recruitment advertisement “a continuation of the incitement and propaganda campaign against the Arab public regarding election transparency in Arab society, and this condition for acceptance means excluding and tarnishing an entire community.”

The Elections Committee confirmed that Team 3 is responsible for recruiting temps for the new election transparency unit, the formation of which was announced Monday.

Shas MK Moshe Arbel, the committee’s deputy chairman, told Haaretz on Wednesday: “I asked the director general of the Elections Committee to raise the issue for a debate in the committee presidium this afternoon. We don’t see any relevance between full military service and the ability to supervise for the committee for election transparency. Prerequisites must be relevant to the job description.”

The company is offering 1,130 to 1,300 shekels ($320-$370) per day for the job.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel also demanded that Melcer rescind the prerequisite. “The requirement of military service is irrelevant to the position of supervising elections,” attorney Gil Gan Mor of ACRI wrote. “As is, it is ‘suspect’ as an indirect attempt to avoid hiring workers who belong to two population groups that generally don’t serve – the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs.”

On Monday, Melcer permitted the filming of vote counts at polling stations in the upcoming election, but not by the parties. The committee chair wrote in his decision that methodically placing cameras in polling stations first and foremost requires legislation, a position similar to that of the attorney general. Melcer’s decision will prevent a repeat of Likud's initiative during the previous election, in which it filmed Arab polling stations claiming to prevent Arab voter fraud, but in practice deterred Arabs from voting.

A Haaretz investigation two weeks ago revealed a host of irregularities in the Israeli electoral process, including exceptionally high voting rates and anomalies in communities that were never investigated, representatives at polling stations who filled out hundreds of forms in contravention of the rules as well as dozens of pieces of evidence that raised suspicions of ballot fraud.

The investigation also found that in hundreds of voting stations, election representatives voted in the same precinct where they worked, some of which represented the same party, and in over 1,000 polling stations there were not any opposition representatives.