No state help for housebound voters

State: 1,000 mobile polls available for hospitalized and housebound.

elections06.article.298 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
For the first time in nearly 70 years, Dr. Olga Mizroch, 95, is not sure whether she will vote in a general election. Her reasons for staying away are not political but rather practical. She is homebound and has no way of reaching the polling station in a nearby school. "The school is not far, but I just don't know how I am going to get there," Mizroch, a retired doctor who lives in Bat Yam, said Sunday. "I'll have to find a wheelchair somehow. Maybe I'll take a chair from my living room and sit down every few minutes to rest."
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Mizroch lives in an apartment in the city's Ramat Hanassi neighborhood. The polling booth she has to make her way to may be just a few blocks away from her Rehov Eli Cohen home, but the journey is daunting for a 95-year-old woman. Mizroch is not alone. She is one of thousands of potential voters who, because they are frail or housebound, will have to rely on loved ones, charities, or the political parties themselves for help to get out and vote in Tuesday's election. There is no national, government-run service available to ensure that those with limited mobility leave their homes and exercise their democratic right. Giora Pordes, spokesman for the Central Elections Committee, admitted Sunday that there was a lack of government provision for housebound citizens who wanted to vote. However, he said that those who were hospitalized or in convalescent homes could vote in the more than 1,000 mobile polling stations that would be brought to them. Furthermore, the government has refused to cover the costs for volunteer organization Yad Sarah to provide transport for those who had difficulties reaching the polling stations. Yad Sarah had offered the service in previous elections but could not afford to do so this year. On Sunday, the organization put out a call to the political parties to help solve this problem. The only party that offered to address the issue was the Tafnit party, which offered to foot the NIS 40,000 to pay for Yad Sarah's fleet of 33 disabled-friendly ambulances to transport those with difficulties to polling stations countrywide. "As soon as Uzi Dayan heard about the problem he offered the money from Tafnit's budget without any conditions," said Etti Peretz, No. 2 on the party list, adding that the party would make it a central focus of the next Knesset if it gained a mandate in the election. Oren Ganor, spokesman for the disabled rights organization Bizchut, told The Jerusalem Post that he was delighted that Tafnit had taken on this responsibility. However, he said the government needed to address this issue in the future. "Times have changed and Israel needs to get in line with the rest of the world." In Britain, the Representation of the People Act (2000) protects homebound citizens by insisting that postal voting be made available on demand to all registered voters who cannot reach the polling booths. Ganor acknowledged that most of the political parties offered some type of service to help their supporters reach the polling station. Though he considered this manipulative, he said that anyone who could not access Yad Sarah should "take advantage of the [parties'] service just to get to the station" even if one was not voting for the party in question. He said those needing aid to get to polling stations should contact the local chapter of such parties for help. Still, Ganor said that this was not an adequate long-term solution. "This is an important issue that we will definitely raise in the future," he said.