With Body Cameras and Special Phone Lines, This Israeli Election Aims for Unprecedented Transparency

New measures to monitor the voting process will be expensive and delay the results, but Central Election Committee members believe the pros outweigh the cons

File photo: Ballots are seen behind a voting booth at a polling station on an Israeli border police base in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, February 8, 2009.
REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The Central Election Committee announced Monday that it had hired 3,000 election monitors, most of whom will be outfitted with body cameras to document any irregularities in Israel's election. (For the latest election polls – click here)

A source on the committee told Haaretz that among the monitors are about 1,400 lawyers and accountants who volunteered for the task. A source on the committee told Haaretz that all of the positions of committee secretary had been filled for Israel’s approximately 10,500 polling stations. About a third of the stations, selected ahead of time, will have a second committee secretary to curtail irregularities. According to the source, additional people had been hired on stand-by in case of cancellations.

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This will be the first test of the ambitious project launched by Central Election Committee head Justice Hanan Melcer. At an estimated cost of 15 million shekels ($4.2 million), it is one part of a series of oversight methods to be employed in the process of voting, tallying the votes and analyzing results.

These new measures will cause a significant delay in reporting the final results. Central Election Committee director general Orly Adas said last week that only about 80 percent of the count will be published on Wednesday at 2 P.M. — perhaps even later, if issues arise in counting the votes.

About a third of the body cameras the monitors will wear were lent to the committee by the police, and the rest were purchased in China and from importers in Israel. Their content will be heavily restricted; only the committee will have access to the footage.

Every monitor with a camera will visit between four and five polling stations, but will be allowed to document inconsistencies they observe only after receiving specific Central Election Committee approval. In order to obtain this approval, a special phone line will connect the monitor to the committee in real time. The monitors will also have to film the entire vote-counting process from the thousands of polling stations that will be chosen ahead of time by the committee. The monitors will not know in advance to which polling stations they will be assigned.

“We added a great many means of monitoring and checking the results,” Adas said last week. “Every polling station committee counts the votes of its own station at the end of Election Day. The results are then recorded in a tally book, which is copied into the polling station documentation, which is the official document that the Central Election Committee uses to publish the results and check appeals.” Adas said that as a further means of accuracy, after the results are copied into the documentation, they are read aloud to ensure they are correct.

For the first time, as a further means of cross-checking, the typists who enter the figures will not be able to confirm the form they type until they hear a computer read the figures back to them. Adas said she was certain that the many new oversight methods would prove themselves.