With ballot boxes opening across Israel for municipal elections on Tuesday, one group of petitioners has called on the High Court of Justice to take steps to ensure the country’s more than 11,000 prisoners will have their voices heard.
Attorney Havah Klein, who drafted the lawsuit along with Attorney Ayal Shmolovitz, said that while the law doesn’t ban them from voting, logistically it’s not set up for it “because jails simply don’t have the apparatus set up to allow the voting.”
The petition was presented in the names of three prisoners – Elad Liberecht from Nitzan Prison, Sergei Merlis from Rimonim Prison, and Yehoshua Malchi in Ma’asiyahu Prison – and calls for the High Court to issue an explanation why they are not organized to allow the prisoners to vote in their local elections, as opposed to the general election.
The petition calls for the court to issue an interim injunction to call on the Prisons Service to carry out steps to facilitate the voting.
Klein said Sunday that the inability to vote isn’t due to legal restrictions, but because the state hasn’t implemented the technical means to facilitate the voting.
She added that the prisoner vote could be of great significance in a number of close municipal races.
Sivan Weitzman, spokeswoman for the Prisons Service, said she had heard about the petition on Sunday and that while the law does allow prisoners to vote in municipal elections, the logistical difficulties of supplying voting lists for all the possible prisoners and their local authorities has always been an issue.
“Just think how many ballot boxes we’d have to put out and how many lists for all the different prisoners and their particular local authorities,” she said Sunday.
By contrast, in national elections, the prisons are simply able to make the national ballot lists available to prisoners. In the last national election in January, 63% of the more than 11,000 eligible voters in Israel’s prisons cast their ballots.
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