Analysis: Why does iVote Israel still exist?

According to iVoteIsrael statistics, 85 percent of absentee voters in Israel cast ballots for Republican candidate Mitt Romney and 14% for Obama in 2012.

August 9, 2016 06:51
2 minute read.
COLORADO RESIDENTS vote in the US midterm elections last week

COLORADO RESIDENTS vote in the US midterm elections. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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When iVoteIsrael was launched in March 2012 as a non-partisan, not-for-profit effort aiming to maximize the number of American citizens living in Israel voting in presidential and congressional elections by absentee balloting, it was perceived as having a true aim of unseating Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

According to iVoteIsrael statistics, 85 percent of absentee voters in Israel cast ballots for Republican candidate Mitt Romney and 14% for Obama in that election.

Although iVoteIsrael founder Aron Shaviv’s company withstood an audit by the Internal Revenue Service, which determined that iVoteIsrael did meet the non-partisan standards of a 501c4 organization, Shaviv did not hide, in retrospect, that unseating Obama was one of the campaign’s goals.

“We didn’t need to be partisan because we knew, based on polling, that Israelis would vote overwhelmingly for Romney,” Shaviv said. “We earnestly encouraged people to vote, and they did.”

So, now that Obama is not running for reelection and the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are both perceived by Israelis polled to be much more pro-Israel than the current president, why does iVoteIsrael still exist? The answer is that although iVoteIsrael did not succeed in achieving its perceived aim of unseating Obama, it did in succeed in its overt goal of empowering American citizens in Israel. The results of the last race’s voting in Israel proved there is a need for such an organization.

Thanks to iVoteIsrael’s massive campaign four years ago, 80,000 Israelis cast absentee ballots, quadrupling the number who voted absentee in the 2008 election.

Those 80,000 absentee ballots accounted for approximately 20% of all overseas absentee ballots cast worldwide in the race, even though Americans in Israel only account for 3% of overseas voters globally. iVoteIsrael punched above its weight in so-called swing states, such as Florida, where 7,500 ballots were cast from Israel, and Ohio with 3,500 ballots.

Ethan Charnoff, who took over iVoteIsrael two years ago, has never met or spoken to Shaviv. His volunteers come from both sides of the political map, and he does not even know the views of some of them.

“iVoteIsrael has to exist because there was no serious get-out-the-vote effort here before, and there is a significant constituency here,” he said.

“Despite the way it was perceived in the past, the purpose of the organization was never to get Republicans registered.

We are doing something totally independent and non-partisan here. The underlying goal is to get as many Americans in Israel to register to vote as possible and to [consequently] get American politicians in the US to think about their constituents in Israel. That has always been our goal.”

Whether the organization will continue to succeed in that effort will be known after the votes are counted following the November 8 election.

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