With Bader-Ofer method, not every ballot counts

How your vote may move to another party.

March 16, 2015 02:35
2 minute read.

An Israeli soldier chooses a ballot from behind a voting booth at an army base near the southern city of Ofakim March 15. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Get-out-the-vote organizations like to say that every vote counts, but in Israel, while every vote is counted, they don’t all contribute to the makeup of the Knesset and some don’t necessarily go to the party the voter intended because of the Bader-Ofer method of calculating “excess votes.”

After the polls close Tuesday night, the committee at each location will count the votes cast there. After the votes are counted, the poll committee gives them to the regional committee, which checks their count and the protocols.

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If no problems are found, the numbers are loaded onto a computer.

Votes from soldiers on army bases, hospitals, prisons and diplomats and emissaries abroad will be counted in the Knesset beginning on Tuesday night until Thursday.

The Central Elections Committee will release results on Thursday, together with the calculation of how many seats each party received. On the following Wednesday, Central Election Committee chairman Justice Salim Joubran and Director- General Orly Ades will give the official results to President Reuven Rivlin.

The calculation that turns votes into 120 Knesset seats is called the Bader-Ofer method, after former MKs Yohanan Bader (Gahal) and Avraham Ofer (Alignment). The formula is known internationally as the Hagenbach-Bischoff method.

The process allows two parties to reach a vote-sharing agreement for dealing with excess votes. In this Knesset, such deals were struck between Likud and Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu, Shas and UTJ and Zionist Union and Meretz. A last-ditch effort to not waste left-wing votes and sign new agreements between the Joint (Arab) List and Meretz and Zionist Union and Yesh Atid fell through when Joint List MKs refused to sign an agreement with a Zionist party.


Any party that receives 3.25 percent of the vote will pass the threshold. In most cases, that will mean four seats, but in some cases it can be three.

There are 25 parties running and just 11 passed the threshold in polls in recent months.

Any votes going to parties that don’t cross the threshold do not count toward the distribution of seats in the Knesset.

The way seats are distributed between parties is by dividing the number of votes given to parties that pass the threshold by 120 to get a general indicator of how many votes entitle a list to a seat.

Each party’s votes are then divided by the general indicator.

However, when the total number of seats per party, in whole numbers, is added up they usually come to less than 120.

The seats left to reach 120 first are divided between lists that signed spare-vote agreements with each other. Which pair of lists receives each additional seat is calculated by dividing the number of valid votes given to both lists that made an agreement, plus one. The pair with the highest result gets a surplus seat, and the calculation is repeated, taking the new seat into consideration each time, until all 120 seats are filled.

The same calculation is done within each pair to determine which party gets the seat.

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