Watchdog: Swapping Polling Monitors in Israeli Election Could Be Criminal

Investigative report by Haaretz revealed unauthorized substitution of committee members in an agreement between Arab parties and United Torah Judaism

A polling station in Kafr Qasem, April 9, 2019.
\ Moti Milrod

The chairman of the Central Election Committee, Justice Hanan Melcer, said Tuesday that unauthorized changes to poll monitoring committees could lead to disqualification of votes and criminal investigations.  (For the latest election polls – click here)

Melcer was speaking at a meeting of party representatives he convened in the wake of an investigative report by Haaretz that revealed unauthorized and illegal substitutions of committee members. The report found the substitutions disrupted the political balance of the committees, whose purpose is to discover possible faulty vote counts or procedural violations.

Melcer said a “fair election oversight patrol” established by his committee would ensure “that there are, in fact, three representatives of three different parties. We have means of monitoring.” He said his committee could “impose sanctions on Election Day that could lead to the closing of the polling station and rejection of votes cast there, retroactive disqualification and the launching of a criminal investigation.

The Haaretz report also revealed that in over 1,000 of the some 10,000 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.

The report uncovered an agreement between United Torah Judaism and the Arab parties that increased their strength at polling stations that were important to them. In at least 130 stations, ultra-Orthodox persons represented the Arab parties in Haredi areas and vice versa, without authorization or approval. Over half of the committees in which substitutions were made had two representatives from the same party, which is illegal and opens the door to election fraud.

Officials in the Haredi parties and the predominantly Arab Joint List admitted to Haaretz that such a deal had been made. Some said such substitutions were made in the past four elections.