As Israelis headed to the polls on Tuesday, members of the small party The
Greens called on the government to cease using paper ballots and envelopes and
switch to an electronic voting system in the next elections.
the paper slip and envelopes, which voters then dispose into cardboard boxes,
millions of pieces of paper create a tremendous amount of waste, the party said.
Much of this trash ends up rolling through the streets that surround the polling
In addition to helping the environment, computerized voting
systems would enfranchise many more citizens who do not vote since they live too
far from their polling station, a statement from The Greens said. An ideal
system, the party explained, would involve the use of a computerized identity
card that allows voters to arrive at any polling station around the
“Israel is still far from Western countries in which there are
green parties in parliament, and from those concerned that the election process
will be as green and helpful as possible to the state and society,” Amir
Meltzer, head of The Greens, said.
For the sake of comparison, nearly all
states in the US tally their votes using some type of electronic voting system,
with at least 23 states employing a direct recording electronic (DRE) machine as
their primary voting mechanisms.
This is not to say that the US is any
less wasteful than Israel, even if the systems are more advanced. Aside from the
states that still employ paper ballot stations and tallying systems in some
capacity, most typically use one of two electronic systems. With the first,
voters mark their ballots manually or through assistive ballot- marking
technology, and the ballots then go to be tallied by optical or digital
The second is the DRE method, which is on the surface entirely
electronic. However, all of these machines are equipped with Voter Verifiable
Paper Audit Trails, similar to ATM receipts.
A Central Election Committee
spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that the reasons why Israel has not passed
legislation for electronic voting are “long and complicated” and there is not
time at the moment to address these issues.
As far as another
electionrelated pollution is concerned – the campaign posters decorating the
entire country’s billboards, walls and buildings – the Elections Law (Propaganda
Methods) does not touch on the subject of sign removals, the spokesman
explained. The decision to do so lies in the hands of the parties.
don’t know what American political reporters write about for two years covering
just two parties. They must be bored stiff.
In Israel, my first election
season was a whirlwind of colors, parties, random assignments of letters,
political infighting and rumors flying in every direction, angry rabbis
promising blessings to those who voted the correct way, last-minute press
conferences breaking propaganda rules, coalition possibilities going up in
smoke, and Meretz activists making rounds of the bars and giving out shots of
terrible green-tinted Arak.
All of those elements came to a culmination
on Tuesday, when I made my way to my neighborhood elementary school, filled with
brightly lit aquariums and student drawings taped to the walls, and stood behind
a piece of turquoise cardboard.
“It’s my first time voting in Israel!” I
gushed to the three election monitors, whose eyes were glazed over with
spreadsheets and long lists of names of voters.
On my way into the school
I didn’t stop to talk to any of the cheerful activists outside: I had labored
for hours over my decision, poring over party platforms and debating for days
with friends, and I didn’t want anyone to change my mind at the last
Jerusalem had a feeling of a city on holiday, and I practically
skipped toward my designated voting location.
“It’s weird, I don’t
recognize anyone on the street,” Marik Shtern, an activist with Yerushalmim,
said as he sat at a bustling local café, as dozens of people took advantage of
the sunshine and the day off of work. “All the really old people are out, the
ones you don’t see normally because they stay home. And you see lots of people
coming back to Jerusalem to vote [who used to live here but haven’t yet changed
their residence], and they’re all secular. It feels like the way Jerusalem used
to be,” he said.
So after three months of campaigns and as the city
basked in a holiday atmosphere, here was the moment of truth: just me and a
table full of strange letters, separated from the three election monitors by the
turquoise piece of cardboard.
I had laughed at the whole process of
choosing letters for parties as needlessly confusing, especially after receiving
urgent text messages Tuesday morning from the Yesh Atid Party, claiming that
someone had switched Yesh Atid’s “peh-heh” slips with the “heh-peh” slips of a
little-known party called Haim B’Kavod.
Many people I know disparaged
Israel’s low-tech voting system – stuffing a note in a sealed envelope, then
pushing it through a slot in a cardboard box. But as a recent immigrant, there’s
something comforting knowing that I’m taking part in a ritual that probably
hasn’t changed since the founding of the state. I missed out on being a pioneer,
but at least I can still vote like one. Or, as my brother so helpfully pointed
out after seeing a photo, it looks like I’m voting for the high school student
With that, I double and triple checked my voting slip, then put
it in the envelope.
“Want me to take your picture?” asked one of the
monitors, as I posed in front of the voting box.
answered, another step toward my aliya journey complete.
My smile reached
ear to ear as I left the elementary school after voting. There’s something about
participating in democracy that really puts a spring in your step.
matter how oldfashioned our voting system is, we can take comfort in one thing:
No way is it as bad as Florida.