The findings of the investigative report that Haaretz published this week raise fears about the integrity of Israel’s elections. The picture that arises from this report is grim: Supervision of polling stations is weak, and at least in the last election, there were dozens of irregularities, anomalies and perhaps even cases of fraud that weren’t probed in real time.
Moreover, sources on the Central Elections Committee admitted that their ability to detect fraud is insufficient. The investigative report found that at hundreds of polling stations, there were polling officials from the local community. At some of them, more than one polling official came from the same party. And at more than 1,000 polling stations, there were no representatives of opposition parties at all.
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The investigative report also found serious problems in the system of election observers, who are supposed to monitor what happens at the polling stations. At many polling stations, observers from a certain party were present even though that party was already represented among the polling officials – a situation forbidden by law.
In addition, the investigation exposed a “deal” between the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and the Arab parties, under which they would swap representatives at polling stations without informing the Central Elections Committee. According to sources in the relevant parties, such swaps took place during all four of the last election.
The investigation found that in the last election, ultra-Orthodox Jews served as polling officials on behalf of Arab parties in ultra-Orthodox towns, while Arabs served as polling officials on behalf of UTJ in Arab towns. This happened in at least 130 polling stations, and it’s against the law. And in fact, unusually high voter turnout was recorded at some of those polling stations.
The Central Elections Committee’s job is to ensure the integrity of the elections, which is critical to ensuring the credibility of their results. But the investigative report found that the committee has failed utterly, and Israeli polling stations are vulnerable to electoral fraud. In order to fix these vulnerabilities, a comprehensive revision of the existing system is needed. This must include changes in the election laws and regulations, and also in the way elections are supervised. Such changes currently appear to be beyond the scope of the Central Elections Committee’s existing investigation and enforcement mechanisms.
By law, the interior minister is the minister responsible for implementation of the Knesset Elections Law. Minister Arye Dery must order law enforcement agencies to look into the investigative report’s findings and do everything necessary to ensure that September’s election is conducted properly.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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