Small but perhaps significant changes in the final distribution of mandates among the parties that ran for the 17th Knesset are still possible after the Central Elections Committee counts the special ballots that were cast outside the regular polling stations and takes into account the surplus votes that the lists which passed the threshold garnered during the election. This is the procedure which is currently taking place and will lead, by no later than early next week, to the official final tally and final distribution of Knesset seats. Q. What is happening right now? A. CEC employees are sitting at long tables scattered about the Knesset and counting over 100,000 ballots cast by soldiers, policemen, jailors, prisoners, seamen, Israeli representatives abroad and others. Before adding each envelop containing a ballot slip to the general "pot" for counting, the employee checks the voter's identification number recorded on an outer envelop to make sure he did not also vote at the polling station near his home where he is registered. Q. What happens after all the ballots placed in double envelopes are counted? A. The number of votes that each party won is added to those they already received at the end of the counting of the regular polling stations. Q. What then? A. The CEC determines the threshold, that is, the minimum number of votes that each party must win in order to be represented in the new Knesset. According to the law, the threshold is two percent of all the ballots cast minus those that were disqualified because they were not cast properly in accordance with the law. Q. What happens to the votes of the parties that do not cross the threshold? A. These votes are dropped from all further calculations. It is as though they had not been cast. In order to determine how many votes are required to win one mandate, the total number of proper votes cast for parties that passed the threshold is divided by 120. For each MK that a party wins, it must obtain the full number of votes equivalent to one mandate. Q. What happens to the "left-over" votes that belong to each party after it has received its last mandate? A. Because of the left-over votes, not all of the 120 mandates can be distributed in the first round of calculations. In the second round, the remaining mandates are distributed in accordance with a formula. According to the formula, the total number of votes earned by each party is divided by the number of mandates it has already won, plus one. The resulting figure is an index. The party with the highest index wins the first mandate. The operation is repeated for the second undistributed mandate and so on, until all the remaining mandates have been distributed. Q. Why did some parties make "vote-sharing" agreements? A. The vote sharing agreement increases the chances that, by pooling their votes, one of the two parties will obtain a higher index and win an extra mandate. That is why most parties pair off with one that is as ideologically compatible as possible.