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Photo by: Danielle Ziri
Students request polling stations on campus
By DANIELLE ZIRI
13/12/2012
Some 4,000 students from higher education institutions sign petition asking to have voting polls installed on campuses.
 
Ahead of the January 2013 elections, some 4,000 students from higher education institutions across Israel signed a petition recently asking to have voting polls installed on campuses.

As of today, according to Israeli law, citizens must vote in the area where they reside. The only exceptions to this rule are army bases and prisons.

The petition was initiated by Or Harpaz, a politics and geography student of Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba earlier this month, after realizing that many students will not vote because of the distance between their school and their homes.

“I think at my university, at BGU, it’s probably the most extreme case because so many of the students here come from areas more in the North or in the Center. Not many are actually from Beersheba,” Harpaz explained.

He added that many of his classmates have been talking about not voting this year. The election is a few days before final exams and many say they don’t have time to go home, stand in line to vote and come back to school, something they see as an inconvenience.

“Almost every university in the country has a large percentage of students who live far from school,” he added.

“It means that a big part of society won’t be voting, and I think that in a democratic country, there needs to be equal access to voting polls,” Harpaz continued, “Something needs to change. In Europe, you can go anywhere to vote. In Israel it’s an old fashioned system.”

The 4,000 signatures on the petition come from students in various different universities and colleges in Israel such as Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University, the University of Haifa and more.

Harpaz’s initiative came after the National Union of Israeli Student had also addressed the issue and sent a letter to the Central Elections Committee last month.

“The student population in Israel surrounds 300,000 individuals enrolled in 67 institutions across the country,” the letter said. “Despite their strong social and political involvement, they encountered many logistical difficulties on election day because of the need to return to their parents’ home to vote, as most of them do not change their permanent home addresses when moving away to study.”

The Central Elections Committee had answered the request by explaining that allowing mobile polling stations on campuses would mean changing the law, which is not easy to do, particularly not in time for next month’s election.

“They do provide free transportation from campus,” Ori Restik, chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, “but it makes it cheaper, not easier. Money isn’t the issue, time is.”
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