Last April's election day in the city of Yarka in northern Druze was particularly busy, partly because local resident Patin Mullah was running for the Knesset, 32nd on Likud's plate. In 2015, Likud's party for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did particularly poorly in the Knesset elections, garnering only 261 votes here. But at the April 9 election this year, with the political fate of a local resident hanging in the balance, the thinking was that things would be different.
And they were. In counting the votes in Bright, Likud received 2,481 votes, an unprecedented level of support. But what happened in Bright also raised many questions.
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In Box 7, for example, a Likud representative who was an observer watching the vote came to the polling station with a camera. He told police that at 9 a.m., an hour before the ballot box was closed, he was kicked out of the room by force and beaten, causing damage to his car. When the actual counted newsletters in the area were counted, he was no longer present.
Likud turned out to be the biggest winner in the district, receiving 214 votes (34.9 percent of the vote in the 40 ballot parties). So there was no reason for Likud to dispute the result in the area.
No one seems to be surprised at the extremely high turnout recorded in the official poll – 92.2% when the average turnout among Arab voters nationwide was less than 50 percent, or that the number of votes collected , is doubled after the fact.
When Haarez approached the secretary of the county commission, he flatly denied that something was wrong, saying that everything was going well before it closed.
Vivid anomalies are just part of the puzzle. The findings of the Haaretz investigation, followed by reports of irregularities collected by volunteers from the Electoral Civilian Guard, reveal that it appears that those who administer the vote have failed in their most important role – delivering robust election results.
Irregularities in the calculation of the vote – whether due to negligence or vote fraud – can theoretically affect the actual composition of the Knesset. Parties' calls on Israeli voters to come out and submit their ballots because "any number of votes" seem a little divorced from reality in light of the findings.
Yet, four months after the last election and just over a month before the next Knesset election, after the inconclusive result last time, police opened fraud investigations with only five polling stations, in addition to a less formal investigation of several more,
Here are the main highlights of Haaretz's findings:
Polling on the polling stations was insufficient
The first spot where irregularities were noticed was the composition of each of the district commissions, consisting of a non-party secretary appointed by the national Central Election Commission, and three party representatives to reflect the balance between the parties in the outgoing Knesset. The Central Election Commission determines a number of parties to be represented in each district, after which the parties appoint the persons who represent them.
Members of the district commission are expected to report irregularities and the system is aimed at preventing voter fraud. But a survey of voting votes reveals that in more than 1,000 out of 10,458 precincts, there were no opposition parties in the commission, since the Central Election Commission only designated right-wing and far-right parties for certain committees, ie. or in some cases because the opposition party's representatives either never showed up or left before the crucial ballot counting stage.
Each party is also entitled to appoint a monitoring observer if the party is not represented on the surrounding commission. Large parties such as Likud take this option seriously, while new parties such as Kahol Lavan and parties without financial means have failed to take advantage of the possibility of appointing observers. But even when observers were appointed, there were violations – as observers were appointed in areas where the party had a member of the commission itself.
Negligence in preparing the waist for voting
Haaretz found hundreds of forms that participants had to fill out that were filled out incorrectly, carelessly, or in violation of instructions, even though party secretaries received training before Election Day. Some of the problems found on the forms suggest a genuine suspicion of vote fraud.
Some mandatory forms were not filled in, including one, for example, indicating how many voters came to the precinct, which could then be compared to the number of votes cast. In some areas, the two numbers did not match. The only sanction the Central Election Commission can impose on such wrongs is to prohibit those involved in the work the next time elections are held.
District secretaries who live in the community
The purpose of appointing a non-party district secretary is to maintain objectivity. The secretary is considered a civil servant and receives a salary from the Central Election Commission for the day. And the rules provide for secretaries not to serve in the area where they live. (In larger cities, this means that they do not live in the polling station).
But in some places, the Central Election Commission has difficulty finding people who follow the guidelines, and in some places it has to make compromises – especially in Arab communities, where Jews sometimes refuse to serve. In some places, the secretaries voted in the same area where they worked.
And when there were irregularities, district secretaries told Haaretz that they had a feeling that there was "no one to talk to" on election day, also claiming that there was no central number to call to report fraud and that Due to the high volume of work, the offices of regional committees sometimes did not answer the telephone. The Central Election Commission denied the allegations and said there was indeed a central number that should be called with concern.
The judges cannot withstand the workload
Secretarial secretaries are also expected to note any irregularities in the forms they fill out and then be sent to a regional election headquarters, overseen by a judge, usually a district court, who must review and approve the results presented by each constituency. Although many districts reported irregularities, none of the 10,000 votes in or around the countrywide were disqualified in the April elections or even noted as a problem by a judge. But the responsibilities of the judges are not completely clear and it is not certain that they are expected to review results in each area.
The judges had between 200 and 900 districts for which they were responsible. The likelihood of them really reviewing the results of all of them for the four five hours they had to complete the task was slim.
The Jewish United Torah and the Arab parties are replacing representatives
As reported this week, Haaretz found that the Judaism party of the United Tora and Arab parties had reached a deal in which they informally agreed to exchange representatives at different polling stations without advising the Central Election Commission. The changes could help the parties gain more power in the polling stations that are relevant to them and could open the door to fraud and vote-counting. Irregularities were reported in dozens of areas where Haaretz had found two representatives from the same party after the exchange, or the number of votes was unusually high. However, few of these cases have been investigated or monitored.
Missing or superfluous voices
After the votes were counted and approved by the district election commission, the lists were sent to typewriters who entered information them in computers, from which the lists went to the national headquarters in Jerusalem. However, this has opened the door to data entry errors that the CEC does not appear to be monitoring. As a result, the task of catching the mistakes, sometimes amounting to hundreds of votes, fell on the parties themselves.
Mishmar Habehiro Haezrahi volunteers re-entered all voting data from participants and found differences including thousands of missing or redundant votes. Sources from various parties told Haaretz that the Central Election Commission did not even take minimum measures to ensure that the impulse data was accurate.
Preliminary ideas on the Arab and super-Orthodox vote
Concerns about election integrity can also lead to stereotypes. Likud and other right-wing parties often accuse the Arab community of voter fraud, but votes cast in Arab lands do not always benefit the Arab parties and the left wing. Statistical aberrations are more pronounced in the Arab community, as it is easy to see suspiciously high turnout when the average Arab turnout is below 50 percent. On the other hand, no one questions more than 90 percent of turnout in ultra-Orthodox areas, although the average percentage of ultra-Orthodox elect to vote is 73.8 percent (compared to 68.5 percent of Israeli voters overall) . The fact that there is consensus that far-right voters turn out to be large may mask any possible vote fraud.
Maintaining the integrity of the vote
In order to maintain the integrity of the vote, the Central Election Commission has several instruments. This includes a protocol that counts votes from a sample of 800 participants. The committee does not disclose how it selects the districts or what methods it uses to detect statistical anomalies, nor does it interview members of the precinct commission. It says it will not divulge information so that they do not take advantage of those who have engaged in voter fraud. However, sources at the Central Election Commission acknowledge that their own methods are not good enough.
The committee's sources also do not say if it compares the results of previous elections, precincts with large changes in turnout, or the number of ballots that have been disqualified, but they say that because of the large number of votes cast – about 4.3 million – any anomalies cancel each other and do not change the overall outcome of the Knesset elections.
The Central Election Commission is responsible
In its response to this article, the Central Election Commission stated that it attached great importance to maintaining the integrity of the elections in Israel and that the composition of the precinct commissions was provided for by law and intended to oversee the voting process.
"Factions from the same political bloc cannot serve on the same district committee, but are allowed to send observers to the surrounding area," and secretary secretaries are appointed after a rigorous selection process, the central committee said.
The chairmen of the regional election commissions have been instructed, as far as possible, to avoid the appointment of locals in smaller communities to areas in their communities. "But for various reasons, this is not always possible."
"The Central Election Commission completely rejects the comments calling into question the training received by [precinct] secretaries. It should be noted that the secretaries who served in areas where the integrity of the election was suspected or the secretaries who are seriously flawed in their work will not be reinstated by the commission, and criminal investigations have been launched against some of these in [central] the committee's initiative. "
The committee said it would also introduce new procedures in the September elections to reduce as far as possible the likelihood of human error.
"The Commission completely rejects the claim that it does not exercise its own supervision and that the oversight has been transferred to parties, candidates and citizens. On his own initiative during the period after [April] elections, the commission conducts a special and thorough process – operation [dedicated to] election integrity aimed at identifying areas where there may have been attempts to undermine election integrity.
"After examining 800 test plots, the committee transferred the plot [results] to the police, who are also followed by other areas [results], It should be made clear that, in accordance with the provisions of the law, the election commission does not have the power to petition the district court as to whether suspected participants can alter the election results. The powers of the chairpersons of the regional election commissions who are judges are laid down in the law and the provisions for the Knesset elections, adopted by law. "