Israeli election ballots [File].
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Seeing women go to vote in the Knesset elections soon before or after giving birth and other hospitalized patients wearing pajamas in their beds or wheelchairs making an effort to vote is “moving and a holiday for democracy,” said Avi Harari, the deputy director-general for administration of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
For Harari, Tuesday will be the fourth election in which he is helping to organize voting by patients, as well as staff members who can’t get away from their jobs. Last time, less than two years ago, hundreds of them made an effort to vote and be counted.
The Central Elections Committee (CEC) estimates that more than 42,000 hospital patients and staffers will vote in the medical institutions – general, geriatric and psychiatric – around the country.
Like soldiers at bases and prisoners, hospital patients put the ballot of their choice in an anonymous envelope and then that envelope in another one with identification so the CEC can check them to make sure they don’t vote twice – the second time in the polling station near their homes. The CEC based in the Knesset has reminded every hospital with at least 50 patients about the procedures for arranging the voting in the institution. The counting of the votes takes longer (about 24 hours) than in conventional polling stations, as checking the external envelopes to prevent double voting is more time-consuming.
Nearly 12,000 prisoners and personnel at 27 correctional institutions who won’t be able to reach home on Tuesday have the right to vote.
Harari told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that not only hospitalized patients but also those who were being treated in the emergency room from 8 a.m.
and unable to be sent home before 8 p.m. Tuesday will also be entitled to vote in the hospital.
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Patients and staffers who will not be free to leave in time will receive a special document giving them the right to vote. At Shaare Zedek, there will be three polling stations – all of them on the fourth floor beyond the regular entrance – and each manned by three representatives of the Central Elections Committee.
If patients can’t walk to the polling stations, special staffers will take them in their wheelchairs or even their beds, but the staffers will not be allowed to assist them in the voting booths themselves. Relatives or caregivers can assist the patients, who must choose and cast the ballots themselves, said Harari.
Shaare Zedek’s smaller branch at Bikur Cholim Hospital has also prepared for the vote using one of the country’s 82 mobile polling stations. The Health Ministry has refreshed the memory of administrators in hospitals around the country, sending detailed instructions about facilitating the voting process. Hospitals have posted informational material in the buildings on how and where to vote.
No electioneering is permitted within the hospital or even within 10 meters of the entrance, said Harari. “In the past, there were efforts to campaign on behalf of the candidates, but we don’t allow this,” he added.
As for psychiatric institutions, Orna Cohen, deputy director-general for administration and business of Jerusalem’s Herzog (geriatric and psychiatric) Hospital said that every patient has the right to vote.
Only if a psychiatric patient is in an acute dangerous condition and confined to isolation will he not be allowed to cast a ballot, but that is rare, she said. Patients in both the closed and open wards may vote.
The CEC decided this time that the mobile voting booth will be set up between 8 and 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday in Herzog’s psychiatric wards and between 11.30 a.m. and 8 p.m. near the hospital entrance for geriatric patients. Although when psychiatric patients were first allowed to vote some two decades ago, said Cohen, some ultra-Orthodox party activists reputedly wheeled geriatric and psychiatric patients to polling booths at Herzog, the CEC has “learned a lot and eliminated the loopholes, so we think everything will be legal.”
Incidentally, Herzog Hospital was founded by Rabbanit Sarah Herzog, the grandmother of MK Isaac Herzog who is running for the premiership.
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