Polling Station Official Representing ultra-Orthodox Party to Be Charged With Voter Fraud

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Ballot box at Central Elections Committee logistics Center, August 2019.
Ballot box at Central Elections Committee logistics Center, August 2019. Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The chairman of the polling station committee in an Arab city on behalf of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party will be charged with voter fraud, pending a hearing.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 40

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Mohammed Diab, who represented Shas in the Arab town of Tamra in the April 9 election, is suspected of slipping seven sealed envelopes into the ballot box to influence the vote tally. The envelopes were counted along with all the other ballots, however it remains unclear which slips Diab slipped into the ballot box.  

At the beginning of September, Chairman of the Central Elections Committee Supreme Court justice Hanan Melcer provided the police with details of the alleged incident, and the national fraud squad opened an investigation.

>> Read more: A day before election, Netanyahu already knows 'Arabs are out voting in large numbers' ■ Arab voter fraud'? What's really behind Netanyahu's push for cameras in polling station | Explained

The Haifa District Prosecutor's Office released a statement saying that they are investigating a number of additional voter fraud cases based on the information Melcer provided the police.

One such probe was launched into alleged voter fraud suspected at a polling station in Druze village of Kisra-Samia in the northern Galilee. The prosecutor's office said they were unable to provide further details so as not to interfere with the investigations.

Out of more than 100 polling stations that Likud complained about, only one of them raised sufficient solid suspicion to launch a criminal investigation.

The police investigated suspicions of fraud at five other polling stations at the request of the Central Elections Committee, one of which was the Tamra polling station. So far, no other voting fraud on behalf of Arab parties has been uncovered. Last month, senior Likud officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the April election had been “stolen” because of Arab voter fraud.

In August, a Haaretz investigative report found that Arab parties and ultra-Orthodox parties had been swapping representatives on the committees supervising the vote in polling places for years. Melcer instructed the parties not to allow such swaps without the prior approval of the Central Elections Committee.       

The Haaretz report also revealed that in over 1,000 polling stations on Election Day in April, there were no representatives from opposition parties. Balance on the committee is intended to ensure that the Central Election Committee receives reports of problems or intentional disruption of vote counts.

Haaretz found that in at least 130 polling stations, ultra-Orthodox individuals represented the Arab parties in ultra-Orthodox areas, and vice versa. This data reveals that United Torah Judaism and the Arab parties had struck a deal in which they informally agreed to swap representatives in polling stations that were important to the parties without informing, or asking permission and receiving approval from the Central Election Committee.

These swaps help the parties gain more power at polling stations that matter to them, in a manner that is both illegal and could open the door to election fraud and vote count irregularities.

In some of the polling stations at which Haaretz found that there were two representatives from the same party, polling station officials had reported irregularities and in some, the reported voting rate was unusually high. Very few instances like these were probed by the Central Elections Committee.

Sources in both parties admitted to Haaretz that the deal existed – and some added that they had done so for the last four elections.

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