Voter turnout was remarkably low in Tuesday’s nationwide municipal elections in
comparison to 2008. But this year’s results follow an overall decrease in
turnout in municipal voting over the past three decades.
researchers at the Israel Democracy Institute’s Political Reform Project, Assaf
Shapira and Dr. Nir Atmor, this decline is largely a result of two changes:
Separation of municipal elections from national elections, and Election Day not
being a holiday.
Atmor said that before 1978, when national and municipal
elections were on the same day, voter turnout for local elections was
approximately 80 percent.
In an article titled On the decline in voter
participation in municipal elections in Israel, Shapira wrote that “local
governments in Israel are also seen as dealing with ‘trivial,’ day-to-day
matters that pale in comparison to issues that the Knesset and government deal
with, which include foreign affairs, matters of national security, and economic
Atmor cited low voter turnout in Tel Aviv as a result of
Election Day not being a holiday, as approximately 10% of the voters registered
in Tel Aviv live elsewhere.
“In order to vote, they have to drive,” Atmor
said. “People need to work.”
But Atmor said voter turnouts are generally
much higher in Arab and ultra- Orthodox cities because leaders urge their
communities to vote.
Shapira also said, “this decline is part of a
general decline in political participation in Israel and trust in politics and
politicians.” Yet both Shapira and Atmor think Israel can improve its voter
turnout in future local elections.
Shapira said holding municipal
elections on the same day as national elections will improve voter
He also recommended reforming local government by
increasing power of local authorities.
Atmor suggested Israel adopt
absentee voting. He proposed voting through mail as seen in the United States or
even through text messaging like in London.
But Atmor indicated low voter
turnout is not a unique phenomenon to Israel and said that “local elections in
Europe and other countries are also much lower than in national elections.”