Mayoral candidate for Beit Shemesh Eli Cohen outlined on Monday the preparations of his campaign team to prevent a repeat of the electoral fraud that led to the cancellation of the original ballot, ahead of the repeat elections in the city today.
“We need to remember how we got here: there was an unprecedented attempt by the minority to take control of the majority and that’s why the courts made a decision [to hold] repeat elections,” said Cohen at a press conference in Beit Shemesh.
“The majority in Beit Shemesh is not haredi [ultra-Orthodox] and that needs to be expressed at the ballot box,” he said. “We need to unite so that Beit Shemesh will be an inclusive city that respects everyone... where everyone will be equal, whether it is a haredi child learning at the moment in a caravan or a secular child who wants cultural input.”
He added that “all young couples, haredi and non-haredi, must have the same chance to buy homes here and build their families.”
During the press conference, Cohen’s campaign adviser for haredi affairs, Akiva Weingarten, described the special preparations being made to prevent a repeat of the election fraud in the haredi sector.
Weingarten pointed to two types of fraud that were employed in the previous elections to boost the chances of ultra-Orthodox incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul of Shas for reelection.
First, radical haredi elements not voting in the election illegally transferred identity cards to haredi activists to vote in their place. Second, several methods were employed to stuff ballot boxes and to invalidate the ballots of Cohen voters.
To prevent a repeat of such tactics, Weingarten ran training sessions for scores of Cohen campaign staff and volunteers who will be at polling stations tomorrow to observe and try to prevent fraudulent voting.
Among the volunteers are 25 lawyers who will provide extra scrutiny against any possible infractions of electoral procedures.
The Jerusalem District Police announced on Monday that it has also taken a series of steps to prevent electoral fraud during the vote.
Hundreds of police officers will be deployed around the city at and in the vicinity of voting booths in order to prevent voting irregularities, preserve public order and ensure the free flow of traffic.
Concerns have been expressed that haredi activists would try to block key traffic arteries in order to prevent non-haredi voters from reaching the polling stations.
The police will also escort the ballot boxes from the voting booths to the counting center.
In the haredi sector, intense efforts are still being made to convince members of the radical anti-Zionist haredi community to vote in the election in favor of Abutbul.
The mayor told The Jerusalem Post last week that his campaign team had not been involved in efforts to convince this community to vote in the repeat election.
There are as many as 4,000 voters from this radical sector, including Satmar, Toldos Aron, Dushinsky and Yerushalmi haredim, who do not vote in Israeli elections due to their ideological opposition to the State of Israel.
According to Abutbul’s campaign team, hundreds of potential voters from the hardline community have said they will vote.
A well-placed source indicated that despite formal declarations not to vote, there is a quiet agreement among some of the radical factions to cast their votes.
The source said that members of the Toldos Aron, Toldos Avraham Yitzhak and even Satmar groups may participate in the Beit Shemesh repeat election.
He said that since the election was local, not national, and since the issues at stake were of an immediate nature and directly affected the lives of the haredi community in the city, the anti-Zionist groups were considering a one-off exception.
A separate source said on Sunday, however, that such an exemption had not been made. Posters from the Eda Haharedit, an umbrella organization for radical haredi groups, have appeared in Beit Shemesh banning participation in the election.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, one of the most revered haredi leaders and respected arbiters of Jewish law, who has never before spoken out on electoral matters, called on the mainstream haredi community to go out and vote for a haredi mayor. This is not the case. We apologize for the error.)