Turn out to vote!

Voting is not just a right, it’s a duty.

By
September 18, 2019 01:45
3 minute read.
Israel's politicians go to vote

Israel's politicians go to vote. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

There are many unknown factors regarding today’s election for the 22nd Knesset, but one thing is clear: This is an election in which a great deal depends on voter turnout.

The Central Elections Committee is running a campaign centered on the slogan, “You have no right to forgo your right [to vote].” The clips show men, women and youth from different communities in Israel, and includes different languages – even sign language.

It’s true for Left and Right: If you have the right to vote and don’t exercise it, you don’t have the right to complain about the results afterwards.

There are 120 seats in the Knesset. In order to get into the House, a party must pass the 3.25% electoral threshold. Hence a great deal depends on the number of eligible voters who place their ballots in the blue election boxes.

There is a reason that Election Day is a day off from work and public transport is free – it’s to enable eligible voters wherever they are in the country to travel to their polling stations. Political scientist Prof. Yehezkel Dror in an interview with KAN Radio’s Reshet Bet this week went so far as to say that only those who vote should have the day off. He explained that society cannot be based only on rights without obligations.

As The Jerusalem Post’s political commentator Lahav Harkov noted in “A numbers game,” published last Friday: “Across the political map, politicians have been saying this race will come down to turnout, which is expected to dip even lower than April’s 68.5%.

“Several of the speakers at The Jerusalem Post-Maariv Election Conference lamented that an estimated 100,000 Israelis are taking advantage of no work on Election Day to leave the country and go on vacation,” she wrote. “In the last election, one seat in the Knesset represented 32,860 votes; 1.7 Knesset seats’ more voters are expected to be abroad on Tuesday than for the April 9 election...There’s no way to know which party will be hurt most by low turnout, because we don’t know who will or won’t vote.”

This is the second general election in five months. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an unusual move in May, promoted legislation for the 21st Knesset to disperse just one month after it had been elected, when he failed to create a stable 61-member majority coalition that would have enabled him to govern. This follows the decision by Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman not to compromise in any way and sit in a government with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Given the circumstances of this election – and its proximity to the previous one – there seems to be a certain amount of voter apathy. There are fewer campaigners distributing party fliers and stickers at junctions; fewer posters and banners hanging from balconies and in windows.

According to the most recent polls, the two main parties – Likud, led by Netanyahu, and Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz – are in another tight race. However, there have been several significant changes since the last election when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. The results though will rest on the questions of how many people vote and who turns out to vote. Will Otzma Yehudit on the far-Right or Labor on the Left pass the threshold, and what percentage of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities will vote? The ultra-Orthodox traditionally have a high turnout, while the Arab sector had an all-time low turnout of 49% in April.

As the number of votes necessary to get into the Knesset depends on the overall number of voters, how these smaller parties fare could have a large impact on the coalition building process.

Israel’s population stands at just over 9 million - more than 6.3 million of whom are eligible to vote.

Election Day is not just a day off work, it’s a holiday – one to celebrate having the democratic right to vote. In the region in which Israel is located, having democratic elections is not something we should take for granted.

Voting is not just a right, it’s a duty.

Vote!


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