The slips used to vote in the 2019 elections, April 9th, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Central Elections Committee chairman and Supreme Court Vice President Hanan Melcer called for the police to open a criminal investigation into irregularities on Election Day found in several predominantly Arab towns, in a letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The incidents were documented by Likud activists at 115 polling places, and transferred to Melcer for review by Likud MK David Bitan, deputy chairman of the Central Elections Committee. The committee also reported two incidents that it found independently, in Afula, which is mostly Jewish, and Kasra-Samia.
Melcer said the documentation “shows a number of actions, some of which apparently reach the level...of truly criminal deeds, as reported by ballot committee members and observers from the Likud at the ballots in those towns.
“Most of the actions described in the complaint and included reports apparently justify owning a criminal investigation of these cases, or most of them, and I ask that you instruct to do so immediately,” Melcer wrote.
Any party can send observers to any polling place in the country. In this year’s election, Likud observers were caught with hidden cameras in several mostly Arab areas.
Melcer allowed them to keep the cameras, but to only film during voting hours if there is a suspicion of wrongdoing, such as threats to the ballot committee. Vote-counting could be filmed in its entirety, but the cameras could not be hidden, Melcer ruled. He also ordered police officers who confiscated cameras to return them immediately.
Hadash-Ta’al and UAL-Balad came out against Melcer’s letter, saying that “at a time when the Central Elections Committee should demand a thorough investigation of the illegal placing of cameras in polling places, Melcer chose to follow the inciting cameras project and use materials gathered while violating the integrity of the election.
“It cannot be that the chairman of the committee will adopt a biased and baseless report by Likud representatives without the committee investigating it,” they wrote. “This is just another part of the leading party’s attack on the citizenship of Arabs in the state. Likud drew a target, lowering the voting rate in the Arab public, and the chairman of the Central Elections Committee is helping them, harming public trust.”
KALMAN LIEBSKIND, an investigative reporter for the Post’s sister publication Ma’ariv, gathered testimony from 12 towns and published them in his Friday column.
One was from the chairman of a ballot committee in Kabiyeh, who said that at 7 p.m., one of the other committee members offered to pay him double what he was making for that day’s work if he allowed them to stuff ballots, using names of people who did not actually vote. When he refused, they asked him how much money he wanted.
“What amazed me was that all the members of the committee were part of this. There were three committee members and another observer of two. I was very surprised. I told them that’s illegal and I’m for democracy,” he said.
When the votes were counted, police officers were present, but the other committee members continued to try to convince him to allow fake votes and the police did not stop them.
An observer in Dir al-Assad, from Likud, told Liebskind that the deputy mayor of the town approached him and said: “I want my party to get as many votes as possible, because then I get more budgets.” He offered the observer to split the votes of 200 people who didn’t actually vote between Likud and his party.
In Umm el-Fahm, a deputy ballot committee chairman said he was approached by someone in the evening who said “there are low voting rates here; let’s raise them” and suggested they vote in the name of those who did not actually vote. When he refused, he was met by constant attempts to get him to leave his post, including invitations to eat in people’s homes. At one point, he estimated that 30 people blocked his access to the polling place.
Liebskind said he wrote similar reports in the Knesset elections of 2006 and 2013, as well as Labor leadership primaries in 1999 and 2001.
Some of the Likud’s documentation of the incidents was aired on Channel 12, and it was similar to Liebskind’s findings.
After the election, the leadership of the PR firm Kaizler-Inbar, which works with many right-wing groups, posted a photo of themselves with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, and took credit for the cameras operation, saying it drastically lowered the voting rate among Israeli Arabs.
Shomron Citizens Committee chairman Sagi Kaizler, one of the owners of the PR firm, was involved in organizing observers at ballot booths in Arab areas in past elections, as well. The other owner of the PR firm, Ofer Inbar, was a spokesman for the Kulanu party during its election campaign. Kaizler-Inbar declined to comment on Sunday.
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