A-G says CEC lacks authority to green light Likud polling station cameras

Doubles down against Likud cameras watching Arab voters

August 14, 2019 09:58
2 minute read.
A-G says CEC lacks authority to green light Likud polling station cameras

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit recommended on February 28 that Netanyahu be indicted, pending a hearing. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit told the Central Elections Commission on Tuesday in a legal brief that it lacks the authority to declare as legal the Likud’s proposal to place video cameras at Israeli-Arab polling stations.

Mandelblit said that due to the constitutional issues involved as well as potential criminal liability, only a full-fledged Knesset law might be able to create a constitutional balance allowing some kind of video camera.

He said that a mere administrative decision by the commission would be insufficient to legalize the controversial proposal in question.

During the April 9 election, the Likud Party  placed cameras at a number of Israeli-Arab polling stations without advance permission, and was referred to Mandelblit for criminal violations of the right to privacy.

The attorney-general appears to have avoided charging Likud members with a crime for their past conduct, but is also taking a strong stand against allowing a repeat of the video cameras in the upcoming September 17 election.

While the state cited a number of legal problems with the use of cameras at select polling stations, the central issues appeared to be privacy rights regarding voting and the potential for creating illicit data banks from the videos, as well as impinging on the freedom to vote through intimidation.

In addition, the state’s legal brief to the commission noted that the police have nixed a compromise proposal that police be placed at polling stations with body cameras.

While this might seem less invasive and more neutral, the police said it was a practical impossibility as they only have the manpower capacity to maintain public order and not to man polling stations.

The Likud attacked Mandelblit’s legal brief as “unacceptable,” saying it has “sought to check hundreds of polling stations, in which suspicions of counterfeiting in the Arab sector emerged in the last elections.”

The statement continued by accusing the attorney-general’s office of “preventing basic polling supervision in a way that could hurt democracy.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan responded to the legal brief saying that there is no right to privacy in the public sphere and that this right only exists during the moments a citizen goes behind a curtain to vote – a moment no one is trying to videotape.

He said that the Likud has the right to invest its own money in ensuring that there is no voter fraud in polling stations that have historically had issues.

Furthermore, he added that, “If the Arab parties want to place video cameras in polling stations in settler and haredi communities, then let them.”

The several human rights groups and the Israeli-Arab parties who have vociferously opposed the cameras have said that there are sufficient safeguards already in place against voter fraud and that the entire video campaign is a ruse to scare away Israeli-Arab voters with “big-brother” tactics.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh responded to the legal brief, saying: “Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], you are afraid of Arabs, but we are not afraid of you. We will not surrender to scare tactics of this government of incitement and hate.”
The commission is expected to issue a ruling by next week.

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