Knesset c’tee calls on Interior Ministry to report any cases of voter address fraud

Any suspicion of fraud, especially when multiple people register same address, should be passed on to police, MK Miri Regev says.

MKs Eichler and Lipman argue in Knesset 370 (photo credit: Sam Sokol)
MKs Eichler and Lipman argue in Knesset 370
(photo credit: Sam Sokol)
The Knesset Interior Committee recommended on Wednesday for the Interior Ministry to report to police any suspected cases of people changing their registered address to vote in elections in cities in which they do not reside.
Committee chairwoman Miri Regev told MKs that “clear instructions” must be given that “there can not be a situation where the clerk knows that there is a problem” and does not report it.
Any suspicion of fraud, especially in cases of multiple people registering the same address, should be passed on to the police, she said, adding that the Interior Ministry “should check after the elections if there are changes in addresses anywhere in Israel.”
Wednesday’s session came in response to calls for an investigation into the possibility that yeshiva students studying in Beit Shemesh, whose families live in other cities, were changing the addresses on their identification cards in order to vote there.
Population figures provided by the Interior Ministry indicated that changes in the voter rolls did not support such concerns, despite Regev’s remarks that “large numbers of people [came] to register as residents of the city to vote for the haredi-incumbent.”
“I am happy that they reported that there isn’t any crazy disconnect,” MK Dov Lipman, and Beit Shemesh resident, told The Jerusalem Post after the committee meeting. “That means that we can go into the elections knowing that it’s okay.”
However, Lipman said, testimony from ministry representatives indicated that there had been attempts to falsely register residency in Beit Shemesh which had been detected and blocked.
“Attempts were made and as a result a request has been made for more oversight on election day,” he explained.
Writing on his website, Rafi Goldmeier, a local blogger and political activist in Beit Shemesh, noted that a haredi student had told him that the boys in his yeshiva “are all changing their address to Beit Shemesh for the elections, but then a month later will be changing their addresses back, each one to whatever city he actually lives in... because their families get discounts in arnona in whatever city they live in, and part of the calculations for arnona discounts is how many people live in the home.”
MK Yisrael Eichler of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party accused Lipman of anti-Semitism for convening the committee to discuss the matter and bemoaned, what he called, attempts to delegitimize the haredi community.
“The use of the Interior Committee as part of the anti-Semitic effort against the haredi community in Beit Shemesh is wrong,” he charged, asking why there was no investigation into university students in Jerusalem changing their addresses in order to vote for secular candidates.
Lipman, he said, was engaging in “incitement” against the ultra-Orthodox.
A spokesman for Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol said that the mayor was happy to see that the Knesset had investigated the allegations and “discovered that there was nothing but fiction behind them.”
It is perfectly legitimate for a yeshiva student who learns full time in Beit Shemesh to change his address, the spokesman said. The claims of electoral fraud have “no basis,” he added, stating that there was no “dramatic increase” in the city’s population.
Abutbol has been “exploiting” children for political ends, Supreme Court Justice and Central Elections Committee speaker Salim Joubran said on Wednesday, after investigating allegations by opposition candidate Eli Cohen that the mayor has campaigned in an illegal manner.
Joubran wrote that Abutbol had violated election laws by running a contest offering a new bicycle to the the child who is able to get the most people to put up election signs and by exhibiting election posters with the logos of opposition parties, indicating that they support his candidacy.
Joubran fined Abutbol NIS 5,000.
The Abutbol campaign has resorted to “desperate measures,” a Cohen spokesman said in response to the decision.
The Abutbol campaign shot back, alleging that Cohen had given up on winning the hearts and minds of voters and was seeking to bolster his candidacy through legal attacks meant to “sabotage” the mayor.
An Abutbol spokesman called Cohen a hypocrite due to his critique of the mayor’s contest at the same time as he has pictures of children being given balloons by his campaign workers on his Facebook page.