Bill to let Israelis vote overseas submitted by departing MK

Currently, Israel limits voting abroad to diplomats and emissaries of Zionist institutions, who vote in embassies and consulates. Regular citizens and students abroad don't get to vote.

 A voting box in the last Israeli election in 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A voting box in the last Israeli election in 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The final legislation submitted by Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi before Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced her appointment as consul-general in Shanghai would enable Israelis abroad who are not emissaries to vote in Israeli elections.

Currently, Israel limits voting abroad to diplomats and emissaries of Zionist institutions, who vote in embassies and consulates. Regular citizens who happen to be abroad that day and students studying at foreign universities do not get to vote.

Rinawie Zoabi’s bill would enable voting abroad for Israelis who leave for less than five years and are therefore still obligated to pay National Insurance Institute payments. Such citizens would have to write to the Interior Ministry requesting to vote and saying that they are abroad temporarily and intend to return to Israel.

“Five years is a reasonable time, as long as they keep paying taxes,” said Labor MK Emilie Moatti, a co-sponsor of the bill. “They should be able to go, wait in line at the embassy or consulate and vote.”

A study by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance cited in the bill found that 151 countries and territories have some kind of absentee balloting that goes beyond enabling official diplomats and emissaries to vote.

THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The bill’s cosponsors were previously citizens of other countries but renounced their citizenship when they entered the Knesset: Moatti and Yomtob Kalfon (France) and Alon Tal (United States). They were all eligible to vote in those countries from Israel.

“In our new global economy, old geographical constraints on citizens make absolutely no sense,” Tal said. “We in Israel need to send a clear message to all our citizens that even though life’s exigencies may leave them momentarily abroad, the country still embraces them and wants them to be part of our political process. Absentee ballots have been a critical part of the democratic culture in the most enlightened of countries.  It is high time that Israel ‘gets with the program.’”