Knesset seats: What happens to surplus votes?

Bader- Ofer Law of 1973 deals with votes given to parties not passing threshold, or do not make up number needed for Knesset seat.

January 22, 2013 01:48
1 minute read.
An IDF soldier votes early in Ashdod, January 20, 2013.

An IDF soldier votes in Ashdod 370. (photo credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen)


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The law dealing with surplus votes – meaning, those given to parties that don’t pass the threshold or those a party receives that don’t make up the number needed for a Knesset seat – is called the Bader- Ofer Law after Gahal MK Yohanan Bader and Alignment MK Avraham Ofer, who proposed it in 1973.

After the polls close at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, all eligible votes are counted. The threshold for a party to enter the Knesset is 2 percent of eligible votes, which in 2009 was 67,470.

The number is expected to be higher this year, as more citizens are able to vote.

Then, the number of eligible votes for each party that passed the threshold is counted.

As such, votes for parties that do not pass the threshold do not count in the allocation of Knesset seats.

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For the other parties, the number of eligible votes is divided by 120 to calculate the general gauge of seats, and then each party’s votes are divided by the gauge. The parties’ seats added together are usually less than 120, and the extra seats are given out in the second and third stages.

Next, surplus vote agreements are taken into consideration.

Essentially, the two parties’ votes are added together, and are redivided in proportion to the number of seats they have in the general gauge. The larger party usually gets the extra seat from the agreement, but neither party loses a seat.

The parties making sparevote agreements are Labor with Yesh Atid, United Torah Judaism with Shas, Balad with Hadash, Bayit Yehudi with Likud Beytenu, The Tzipi Livni Party with Meretz, Kadima with Am Shalem, and Dor with Social Justice. Agreements signed with parties that do not pass the threshold are meaningless after the election.

The Hagenbach-Bischoff system used in Israel is named after Swiss physicist and electoral reformer Eduard Hagenbach- Bischoff (1833-1910), who allocated seats in partylist proportional representation.

It is used in Belgium and Switzerland, and Luxembourg uses it to allocate seats to the European Union.

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