Banners demanding to overturn Beit Shemesh election 370.
(photo credit: Yonah Jeremy Bob)
A three judge panel of the Jerusalem District Court heard on Tuesday the appeal of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and mayoral candidate Eli Cohen to overturn the recent Beit Shemesh election and order a new one.
Unprecedented allegations of widespread, coordinated and systematic fraud led to the appeal according to Weinstein.
Banners demanding overturning the election flanked the courthouse with the courtroom packed with media and supporters of Cohen and the incumbent mayor (and so far winner of the October election) Moshe Abutbol.
The state began its argument stating that because the hearing was on an administrative issue, not criminal, it did not need to meet as high a level of proof.
It implied that the significant arrests and anecdotes suggesting that at least several hundred votes were fraudulent endangered the faith of Beit Shemesh residents enough that their democratic rights were being stepped on that a new election should be ordered.
In the written appeal, Weinstein said that the "severe deficiencies" in the elections, in light of the razor close margin of victory of only 956 votes for Abutbul made it clear that the plan was to impact the outcome of the elections.
He noted that even before the current deeper investigation, 828 votes had been disqualified in the initial electoral count as problematic, showing that the volume of the fraud was considerable.
In his appeal to the court, Weinstein mentioned two police busts of centers for voter fraud. In one center, at least 62 fraudulent voter registrations (based on the number of identity cards recovered) were being produced and in the other 99 were being produced, of which 36 identity cards had already been used to make fraudulent votes.
On the first bust, the adults inside were arrested, but in the second the police only managed to arrest five of the approximately 20 Haredi-dressed persons involved, said the appeal.
Weinstein said that many of those arrested exercised their right to remain silent, but some made admissions which clearly indicated that they were involved in a voter fraud scheme which the police had only partially uncovered.
One suspected central player in the fraud said that he knew of a "target" goal of paying between 1,000-1,700 "enthusiasts" to vote in favor of Abutbul and his party's slate.
Another suspect told of overhearing that another participant in the fraud possessed a bag holding 500 identity cards for illegal voting, said Weinstein.
Also, Weinstein added that the police found paraphernalia at least ideologically linking the fraud operations with assisting Abutbul's campaign and his party's slate for city council.