Reporter's Notebook: To seal or not to seal

After six decades of practice, it seems that there are still a few kinks to work out in voting procedures.

Voter Jerusalem elections 2013 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Voter Jerusalem elections 2013 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Israelis went to the polls Tuesday to exercise their democratic right, but after six decades of practice, it seems that there are still a few kinks to work out.
Forget about the fact we’re still using paper ballots and envelopes (at least there weren’t any chads), but what’s the deal with the one big ballot box? Voters were given two envelopes to fill, one for the mayoral candidate and the other for their municipal council selection. However, when emerging from behind the curtain, they were told to deposit both envelopes into one box.
When queried why there weren’t two boxes available, which would have saved the whole sorting procedure, one poll monitor at a Ma’aleh Adumim polling station just shrugged, chuckled and quipped that it was a cost-saving gesture.
A more perplexing – and possibly sticky – issue revolved around the envelopes themselves. Three different voters at three different polling stations had three different experiences.
One sealed his ballots inside the two envelopes, peeling the slips off the sticky flaps before adhering them and depositing both together in the box, with no problems.
Another did the same, but was stopped by one of the polling station monitors as she was about to deposit the envelopes and asked why she sealed them. Maybe because there were sticky flaps on them just begging to be sealed? The third voter was told before going behind the curtain to not seal the envelopes but to leave them open. Perhaps it was a function of how much foresight the monitors had, envisioning having to rip open hundreds of sealed envelopes instead of simply sliding the ballot out of the open ones.
But compared to the relatively smooth process experienced by most voters, a little uncertainty on the rules can be excused.
Outside polling stations around the country, there was the usual jostling, sloganeering and unsubtle last minute appeals/demands from volunteers to vote for their candidates.
Static-filled loudspeakers on top of trucks, huge banners surrounding the schools that had been converted into polling stations and a shuk-like atmosphere reminded us that, after all, we’re in the Middle East. But it also reminded us that though it may be messy and informal, Israel’s democracy is strong and vibrant, even if we don’t know whether to seal the envelope or not.