CEC holds hearing over Likud’s hidden camera op. in voting stations

The Likud party has claimed that its operation was designed to expose voter fraud in polling stations in majority Arab locations.

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August 9, 2019 06:13
2 minute read.
An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth before casting her ballot at a polling station in the n

An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth before casting her ballot at a polling station in the northern town of Umm el-Fahm March 17, 2015. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

In a highly charged and lengthy hearing, the Central Elections Committee heard claims against the operation staged by the Likud during the April election, in which it recruited some 1,350 election day polling-station observers to use hidden cameras to observe events inside polling stations in Arab towns.

Several NGOs, including the Adalah legal advocacy organization for Arab citizens, the Israel Democracy Institute, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and the Movement for Quality Government, appealed to the CEC to ban Likud from placing cameras in voting stations in the coming elections.

Chairman of the CEC and Supreme Court, Justice Hanan Melcer, said after the nearly six-hour hearing that he would issue a decision in 10 days’ time.

The Likud has claimed that its operation was designed to expose voter fraud in polling stations in majority Arab locations. The organizations appealing against the Likud claim, however, that the purpose was to invalidate votes at such stations and reduce Arab voter turnout.

The day after the election, public relations firm Kaizler Inbar posted on Facebook about having participated in Likud’s hidden camera operation, and took pride in having lowered the voter turnout in the Arab sector.

“Because of the fact that we placed our election observers in every polling station, the voter turnout [in the Arab sector] was lower than 50%, the lowest it has been in recent years,” the firm wrote.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said in a position paper he submitted to Melcer on Wednesday that there was no legal authority to place cameras in voting stations and that he believed doing so could, under certain circumstances, be a criminal offense, constituting interference in the proper conduct of elections.

Mandelblit added that the chairman of the CEC was authorized to prohibit certain actions, even if they were not necessarily criminal in nature, if there was nevertheless a concern that it could lead to election interference. The attorney-general said that no party, including the Likud, could put cameras in a polling station even if they were not behind the divider of the polling booth itself, but merely in the room.

Meretz MK Esawi Frej, who spoke at the hearing, said that the Likud was “not interested in preventing fraud,” but rather “intimidating voters.”

MK Ofer Kasif of the Hadash Party – which submitted the complaint to the CEC regarding the cameras – described placing cameras in voting stations as an “injury to privacy,” and said that the goal was not to stop voter fraud, but rather to “make Arab citizens feel threatened” so that they would not exercise their right to vote.

On the contrary, Likud MK David Bitan said that there had been “no interference,” and that in Arab towns like Umm el-Fahm and Sakhnin, disturbances had been caused against its observers so that the police would eject them from the voting station. Bitan also said that it was the right of any party to place cameras in voting stations, and that he and the Likud have said that they intend to do so again in the coming election.

During the hearing, Melcer raised the possibility of the CEC itself placing cameras in voting stations and asked if that would satisfy the Likud regarding its claims of voter fraud, which Bitan and a Likud attorney said they would agree to.


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