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Israeli elections today

March 28, 2006 by Saar Drimer

In case anyone is interested (seems like most Israeli’s don’t, judging by the turnout) Israel is voting today. I thought it would be nice to provide some details on the how elections are done in Israel. Purely on a mechanical level, no politics.
votingIf you are over 18, you can register to vote. Once you do, you get a little certificate telling you where you can vote, usually it’s in a school or other public venue near your residence. You may only vote there. If you are a soldier, you vote at your base. If you are not present in Israel on the day of elections, you cannot vote unless you were sent abroad by the country; in this case you vote at an embassy.
When you get to the polling station (there are observers from multiple parties present) you hand in your certificate with an ID (Israel has national IDs) and are marked on a pen-and-paper list and given a single blue envelope. You then go behind a cardboard set on a table that conceals most of your upper body. You are faced with a frame that has many compartments.
voteIn each compartment lies a stack of rectangular pieces of paper with one to three Hebrew letters printed on them designating each party; there is also a blank stack so you can abstain. These letters may or may not correspond to the actual name of the party. For example, the “Labor” party has the designation אמת which means “truth” or “true.” But this is more an exception than the rule. This year there is confusion between the “Kadima” party with the designated letters כן that mean “yes” and the “Green Leaf” party that promotes the legalization of marijuana, designated קנ which is short of cannabis. Yes, these designations sound the same: “ken.” I doubt there will be an equivalent chad fiasco over this; although these confusions should have been thought of upfront. So, you are there, behind this cardboard… you pick one piece of paper of your choice, put it in the envelope and seal it. Then you come out and drop the envelope in a slotted box in full view. Then you leave. If there is more than one piece of paper, or it is defaced in any way your vote will not be counted.
Katzav votingAs you noticed, the whole process is purely manual, there are no electronics involved or fancy punch machines. I, for one, think it is better this way. There is no reason to automate or complicate (i.e. jeopardize, open to mass cheating and coercion and so on) the process by introducing functions that are foreign to the voter; putting a piece of paper in an envelope is a universally simple task. If this means that manual counting will take a few more hours, so be it, it’s not a big deal; there are exit polls for people who can’t wait for the real numbers. The only time where we should consider electronic voting is when it can produce a paper trail that would enable the voter to verify that his or her vote was counted towards their choice candidate or party without the ability to be coerced. We are not there yet, and frankly, I don’t think we ever will be. I can think of one powerful attack against most proposed systems: the cellphone camera.


  1. Helen Jones says:

    So I if I am reading this correctly you were unable to vote absentee?

  2. Saar Drimer says:

    Correct. Not that there was anyone to vote for. If there was, I’d make the effort to fly to Israel and vote.

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