Israelis cast their votes under unprecedented coronavirus protocols

Government providing rides to special polling stations to allow 15,000 infected Israelis and tens of thousands in quarantine to cast their votes.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

As 6.5 million eligible Israelis cast their ballots in the national election Tuesday, election officials have taken unprecedented steps to ensure that tens of thousands of Israelis infected with the coronavirus or at home in quarantine get to vote.

Special polling stations have been set up across the country for the eligible voters among the 15,000 Israelis currently infected with the virus and 85,000 others who are in mandatory quarantine after being exposed to somebody who was infected.

The Central Elections Committee (CEC) is operating hundreds of special polling stations including 38 located in hospital coronavirus wards, five coronavirus quarantine hotels and 547 old age homes along with scores of parking lots at sports stadiums and university campuses.

There are even rolling polling stations set up on public transportation buses that have had the seats removed, and four polling booths at Ben Gurion Airport for the several thousand Israelis expected to return to the country from abroad on election day.

All the officials supervising the polling stations are supplied with personal protective equipment and sit behind see-through barriers to minimize contact with the voters. Voters must show photo ID and remove their face masks to be identified before being allowed to vote.

“We have made a series of steps in order to reduce the crowding at polling stations and guard the public health with a protective measures,” CEC head Orly Adas told Channel 12.

For those infected or in isolation who are unable or unwilling to drive themselves to a special polling station, the CEC is providing free transportation with voters able to order a taxi via the CEC website.

The cost of providing health safety measures and additional polling stations is expensive.

The CEC budget for Israel’s fourth election is 675 million shekels ($205 million), a huge increase from the 402 million shekel cost of the March 2020 elections, which itself was already a third more expensive than the previous election in September 2019 that set the taxpayers back 322 million shekels.

An additional 3,000 polling stations were added due to the coronavirus in order to accommodate those affected and to reduce crowding at ​13,685 polling stations across Israel.

The polls close at 10:00 p.m. when the votes will be counted under strict health safety measures that are expected to add hours to the process and add tension to the announcement of the results.

The first results are not expected until the early hours of Wednesday morning with the vote expected to be very close. The official results of the election will be published on March 31.