'Camera Law' Would Let Israeli Parties Retain Footage of Voters Filmed at Polling Stations

In practice, the proposed law would permit parties' representatives to maintain a database of voters and record their conversations both inside and outside the polls

Israeli soldiers voting early on a military base, April 6, 2019.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

legislation that is being proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party would permit representatives of political parties to film both outside and inside polling stations on Election Day, and retain the information that is collected. (For the latest election polls – click here)

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The fast-track bill, which received the support of the cabinet on Sunday, is expected to be voted on by the Knesset on Monday in the first of three votes required for its passage.

>> Read more: 'Arab voter fraud?' What's really behind Netanyahu's push for cameras in polling stations

Although the bill does not permit the filming of members of the public while they select a party inside the voting booth, it would permit party representatives to film any conversation between the members of the precinct election committee and the voters "at the polling place or its vicinity," and does not define vicinity.

It also permits the parties to retain the video footage without independent oversight, which could potentially collectively include footage from millions of voters.

The scope of the filming that the bill would permit includes the voters themselves, the verification of their identities, the opening of the box in which voters place their ballot (which is in a sealed envelope) and the counting of the ballots.

The information gathered by the parties would not be deemed a database subject to certain privacy protections under current law.

For his part, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who opposes the bill, said it "does not provide appropriate protection from the risk that the parties could create a photo database of voters."

The Knesset's legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, joined Mendelblit in opposing the bill, saying passing it would give Likud a major advantage over other parties. 

“We know that large-scale fraud exists and it must be prevented," Prime Minister Netanyahu said after the Central Elections Commission came out against the use of cameras by party representatives. The bill is an effort to overturn that decision.

"Allowing party-affiliated observers to film the voting process is the only way to prevent election theft," Netanyahu said.

The Central Election Committee developed a plan that includes the deployment of 3,000 inspectors, some of whom are lawyers or accountants, who will be equipped with body cameras. The plan calls for the inspectors to tour all of the country's polling stations on Election Day and, with the approval of the Central Elections Committee, to film any instances in which there is concern over impropriety.