Israelis turn to mystery ‘double envelopes’ in hopes they’ll break the stalemate

Final 450,000 ‘double envelopes’ could break the stalemate. At least, that’s the hope.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Central Elections Committee (CEC) officials in Jerusalem began counting the final 450,000 ballots, or ‘double envelopes,’ from Israel’s national election that may affect the current stalemate that saw no party win a decisive victory.

With 4.2 million votes counted so far, 13 parties out of the 37 that ran in Tuesday’s vote gained enough support to win seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party managed to win 30 seats, the largest of any party, but the parties willing to support the incumbent prime minister currently give him a maximum of only 52 seats – not enough for the 61-seats needed to form a majority.

The opposition parties trying to unseat Netanyahu can muster only 57 seats, with the right-wing Yemina Party (7 seats) headed by Naftali Bennett and the Islamist Ra’am party of Mansour Abbas as possible kingmakers, should they decide to support one side or the other.

The 450,000 remaining ballots therefore become crucial. They could tip the scales, but only if they follow a different trend than the voting patterns thus far, something which would be out of the ordinary.

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The votes were cast by Israelis who were not home on Tuesday to vote at their normal polling station. That includes almost 200,000 active duty soldiers who voted at military bases or in the field, tens of thousands of Israelis either sick with corona or in mandatory quarantine who voted at special health-compliant polling booths, prisoners and prison guards, police and other security officers, and over 30,000 election officials who worked throughout the day and could not vote at home.

Members of Israel’s foreign diplomatic corps voted at embassies around the world on March 11, as did sailors on Israeli flagged ships.

They’re called double envelopes because the normal voting envelope holding the ballot is placed in another envelope with the voter’s name, national identification number and address on the outside. All of those ballots were delivered to the CEC headquarters at the Knesset, where they are being counted by hand by teams of election officials.

Each ballot is checked against the polling station lists from Tuesday’s election to ensure that the person did not vote twice. If it turns out that there was indeed a double vote, the vote is disqualified and the person stands to be charged for voting fraud.

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Once the verification procedure has been performed, the ballot envelopes are taken out of the double envelopes and mixed together in order to preserve voting secrecy.

CEC officials estimate that the counting process will be completed later Thursday and the results released Thursday evening or Friday morning.

No major changes are anticipated because the voting pattern generally follows the national average. However, traditionally there are fewer ultra-Orthodox and Arab voters among the double envelopes because proportionally fewer of them are away from their homes on Election Day.

In 2015, for example, the double envelopes gave another mandate to the Likud and Meretz at the expense of the Arab Joint List and United Torah Judaism, Channel 12 noted.

While it is difficult to predict how the double envelopes will affect the outcome, even a change of two seats would not be enough to break the current deadlock.