Bennett's Party, Election Board Find Only One Irregular Ballot After Claims of Mass Fraud

Election committee gave Hayamin Hehadash access to ballots after party failed to make it into the Knesset, blaming irregularities

Naftali Bennett speaks as Ayelet Shaked is seen in the background after voting ends in Israel's general election, at Hayamin Hehadash headquarters in Bnei Brak, April 9, 2019.

Far-right party leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked are "falsely" claiming the count of soldiers' votes in the April 9 general election was tainted with irregularities, Israel's election committee said Sunday.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 22Haaretz

Their party, Hayamin Hehadash, has claimed thousands of votes in double-sealed envelopes went missing, after it failed to pass the 3.25-percent electoral threshold.

The committee's chairman, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, said he "allowed Hayamin Hehadash representatives look through material from special polling stations 'ex gratia,'" referring to votes by soldiers, prisoners, disabled and hospitalized people, diplomats, and other Israelis who are unable to cast their ballot at a polling booth located in their registered place of residence.

Melcer added that any complaint by Hayamin Hehadash "has been looked into immediately," without requiring any formal procedures.

>> The downfall of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked

An examination of the materials showed that there were no ballots cast for Hayamin Hehadash that were invalid, besides for a single ballot that was disqualified on legal grounds.

According to sources from the Central Elections Committee, Bennett requested to examine about 300 ballot boxes, but only managed to check data from about 30 of them. He decided to stop the check after failing to find any information that reinforces his claim that his party's ballots were being systematically rejected.     

Sources from within Hayamin Hehadash said that they did not succeed thus far in identifying any evidence that significantly undermines the official election results. They added that 150 volunteers also reviewed the double-sealed ballot data on Sunday and failed to find any irregularities. Those close to Bennett said that they're still examining typing errors at ballot boxes throughout the country and complaints from voters that according to the committee's statistics, there were no Hayamin Hehadash supporters at their ballot boxes.    

Final results in Israel's election, which factored in votes in double-sealed envelopes, were published by the Central Elections Committee on Thursday, but Melcer said they may "still be changed and modified."

Bennett and Shaked hoped additional support from soldiers would hand them enough votes to pass the electoral threshold.

Party sources said they are working to alter the results, which for now keep Bennett and Shaked out of the next Knesset. "We're not giving up," one of the sources said over the weekend. "We'll get the protocols during the week, and hundreds of our volunteers will compare them to the computerized results. … We will accept the voter's decision, but won't give up until we know what it really is."

Party officials may complain on vote count by Wednesday, before the final results are officially handed to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who is then tasked with tapping the lawmaker seen most likely to form a governing coalition. Parties may also appeal to the Jerusalem Administrative Court against the results until early May.