Central Elections Committee: if vote called, we’ll be ready in 90 days

Knesset discusses the complications of voting during a coronavirus wave, but elections committee head says too late for changes.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The top civil servant in charge of Israel’s elections said Tuesday that if a national vote is called, the Central Elections Committee (CEC) would be ready for the vote even if the coronavirus pandemic was still a serious problem.

“The challenge of elections in the shadow of corona is great, but we will meet in 90 days – no more and no less,” Central Elections Committee director general Orly Adas told the Knesset’s State Audit Committee.

Adas told the committee that the CEC was investigating all possibilities, and ruling out the option for spreading the voting out over two or more days to lessen crowding at polling stations saying the law dictated only one day of voting.

“The congestion at the polls should be diluted and additional measures produced, such as an additional dividers at the polls and reducing the number of voters at large polls,” Adas said, adding the possibility of drive-through polling stations is being considered.

The drive-through voting would allow the increasing number of Israelis infected with corona, currently standing at 14,097, to vote without coming into close contact with other voters. The previous election in March was also held during the pandemic, but at the time there were only a few dozen coronavirus infections reported in Israel.

In addition, Adas proposed placing ballot boxes in nursing homes in order to protect the older population, saying she already contacted 350 nursing homes to keep seniors from direct contact with the general public.

Asked by committee chairman MK Ofer Shelach if there were alternatives to use like voting by mail or telephone, as is done in other countries, Adas threw the ball back in the politicians lap saying other countries had delayed national elections due to the pandemic.

“We did not create new models for voting … this is an issue for politicians,” Adas said. “If we are on the verge of an election, this is not the time for revolutions [in voting systems].”

Israelis are waiting for the results of political negotiations, after the Knesset passed a preliminary vote last week to dissolve the house and go to elections, which would be the fourth national vote in the past two years.

Following the March 2020 elections, Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz chose to join a national unity government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under the coalition agreement, each would serve as prime minister for 18 months, but Netanyahu has shied away from a commitment to pass the national budget for 2021, which would solidify government stability and make it more likely for Gantz to take over as prime minister next November.

The bill to dissolve the Knesset is currently in committee and has to pass two more votes before becoming law. If no election is called and no budget is passed, the Knesset will automatically dissolve on Dec. 23 and elections would be held on March 23.