Date for next election to be set on Wednesday

Elections Committee rules out election in less than 90 days.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) is seen talking with Higher Education Minister Ze'ev Elkin during the preliminary voting plenum to dissolve the Knesset on December 2, 2020. (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON/DANI SHEM TOV)
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) is seen talking with Higher Education Minister Ze'ev Elkin during the preliminary voting plenum to dissolve the Knesset on December 2, 2020.
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON/DANI SHEM TOV)
The Knesset House Committee will meet on Wednesday to set a final date for the next election and legislate the Knesset dispersal bill that Blue and White wants to pass into law by the end of next week.
The head of the Central Elections Committee, attorney Orly Ades, told the Knesset House and State Control committees on Tuesday morning that 90 days are necessary to prepare for an election that will be complicated by the coronavirus. She resisted pressure from Blue and White chairman Eitan Ginzburg to hasten the election.
"Elections cannot be done by hocus-pocus, especially during corona" she told Ginzburg who chairs the House Committee.
Ades said the 90-day minimum for elections was set in 1968, when Israel had a fraction of the population that it does now, and the coronavirus will make it even harder to have an election in the minimum period of time.
"We have proven in our committee that we can successfully handle any mission given to us," Ades said.  "The law says 90 days, and we can still handle an election in 90 days – no more but not less than that – despite the huge challenges."
The impact of Ades's pronouncement is that the earliest possible date for the next election is Tuesday, March 16, which would only work if the Knesset disperses itself by next Wednesday, December 16, when the Knesset session is set to end early because of Hanukkah. The Knesset will disperse automatically when no state budget is passed by December 23, which would automatically result in a March 23 election.
Ades said holding elections on March 23 could be problematic, because the Passover holiday begins on March 28, and even the eight days provided by law to complete counting the ballots are not enough to count absentee ballots from quarantined voters, diplomats, soldiers and prisoners before the holiday. She said holding the election one day earlier on Monday, March 22 would be helpful, but she preferred an earlier date.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said he would insist that the election date be reached by consensus of all factions in the parliament and not imposed unprecedentedly by one side. 
The Knesset dispersal bill Blue and White wants to pass would drastically cut party funding and impose new limits on paid election propaganda online, including on social media. Blue and White MK Ram Shefa told the House Committee that there is less need to fund political events when people are staying home due to the coronavirus.
Despite the pandemic, Israel will hold the elections in one day, but the committee will have to add more polling stations and staff across the country, spread out lines and have an information campaign, the CEC head said. Adding polling stations will cost a minimum of NIS 16,000 per polling station, Ades said, when asking for a higher budget.
Earlier, retired Supreme Court judge Ayala Procacia, who heads the state committee on party funding, said that such funding should not be lowered despite the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.
She revealed that American election officials learned from the Central Elections Committee of Israel how to have special polling stations for those quarantined for the coronavirus in a meeting on Zoom. Asked about voting by mail, by telephone or by power of attorney, as America does, Ades ruled those options out. But she said she would be open to adding mobile polling stations for coronavirus patients, similar to coronavirus testing trucks.
"When elections begin is not the time to be revolutionary," she said.