Ballots are printed ahead of elections 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Some things in this country work just fine. We often get notices that are
unsolicited and sent for our good – be they from the National Insurance
Institute to inform us of our rights or from our health fund urging us to avail
ourselves of vaccines and other services. There’s more, much more. The imparted
impression is that on occasion the bureaucratic machine is well-oiled and
One of those confidence-inspiring items of mail that
would come our way every few years was the familiar notice to the voter, ahead
of each electoral bout –national or local. It informed us where our polling
station is and even directed us to a specifically numbered room within that
station. Not only that, it informed the monitoring staff exactly on which line
of the voters’ roll to find our name. The notice made fulfilling our civic duty
as smooth and as speedy as can be.
In these days of cyber-magic it was
natural to assume that things would function ever more
Instead, however, this elections season we witness a
collapse of what we took for granted for decades.
This time around, many
Israelis have not gotten their voter notices. The Interior Ministry announced
that it plans to thrash out the issue with the company that for the first time
won the tender and undertook to produce and deliver the notices three weeks
before polling day. To date, however, numerous voters have not received the
customary cards, and they likely never will at this late stage.
cases the notices ended up at the wrong address. In Beersheba, hundreds of
notices were found dumped in the garbage. In Haifa, a pile was left strewn about
in an apartment house lobby without being inserted into the designated
mailboxes. Most absentee notices, though, are simply unaccounted for.
tender-winner, the Israel Postal Company and the Interior Ministry all
energetically trade accusations.
The Central Elections Committee has
assured the public that there are ways around the notices we have grown so used
to. A telephone number has been published via which perplexed citizens can
presumably attain whatever information was not delivered to their mail boxes.
Yet here another botch manifests itself. The frequent response the caller gets
is that “the number you have dialed is not connected.”
This would be funny
enough for sitcom if it were not so sad. There is no excuse for our inability to
depend on what was for so long reliable.
The printed notice can of course
also be circumvented by the online option. It is possible to find out the
information on the Internet (https://kalpi.elections.gov.il/), where
things do work. This is a handy solution for most of the voters who were left
high and dry.
Nevertheless, the problem with digital solutions is that
not everyone can benefit from them. The growing tendency both for officialdom,
the business community and numerous service providers is to send members of the
public to their computers. It is certainly cost-effective. But it is too often
forgotten that there are segments of the population who are not computer savvy
or who do not even possess PCs.
These population segments are simply
allowed to fall by the wayside.
It may be plausible, even profitable, for
entrepreneurs to write off clients who cannot keep up with cutting-edge
communications, but it is unconscionable for the Central Elections Committee to
do so. Voting is a basic and self-evident right for all citizens, regardless of
their technological skills. In this sphere nobody is dispensable and nobody may
be written off.
Lessons must be learned from this year’s fiasco. Perhaps
the most fundamental is a rethink about tenders.
It is clearly not enough
to choose a contender who offers the lowest price. Choices have to take into
account the applicant’s ability to abide by deadlines and to provide a
professional service on a nationwide scale.
Even if underrated in popular
perception, organizing all the nitty-gritty details of Election Day is a civic
mission of the highest order. It might not be advisable to leave parts of this
project to the lowest bidder.