by: Amir Alon
Friday, 06 December 2019 | Even though there is still a week left for a new government to be formed, the body in charge of overseeing the Knesset [Parliament] elections in Israel appears to be preparing for an unprecedented third national vote in 12 months.
The Central Elections Committee on Monday agreed to reduce the 90-day period provided by law between the Knesset’s dispersal and the earliest possible election date to just 75 days.
President Reuven Rivlin handed the mandate to establish a government to the Knesset two weeks ago, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz failed to form a coalition. The move effectively started a 21-day period where 61 MKs [members of Knesset] could recommend any member to begin forming a coalition. If they don’t succeed the Knesset disperses and the new election date is set.
The committee’s move comes in the wake of demands made by various lawmakers to hasten the election process, which is believed to be a broad cross-party consensus.
Last week, the ruling Likud tabled an amendment to the election law so that the minimum time allowed to hold snap elections would be reduced further—from 90 to 45 days.
The committee emphasized it will not agree to a shorter time period, explaining that out of the 90 days given to them, only 65 are actually working days. Anything less than 75 days will not be sufficient in order to complete all the logistical and legal matters involved with organizing a national vote.
The period between the Knesset’s dispersal and the elections could be divided into four stages.
According to Basic Law:The Knesset, the elections commission is given no more than 15 working days to rent facilities, recruit thousands of workers and volunteers as well as deploy communications frameworks for the elections.
The committee has already stated in the past that some volunteers had to miss a significant number of working days due to having to organize two elections within six months. This significantly harms the commission’s ability to rehire them.
Furthermore, the elections commission says that new candidates and parties who want to register for the elections will have to begin the process earlier and do so in a haste, an effort that might be perceived as an attempt to bar new applicants from running for the Knesset.
The second stage, which by law is supposed to take 17 working days, includes the inspection of some 11,000 polling stations across the country as well as establishing new, special polling stations in prisons, hospitals and embassies (which require special arrangements and equipment.)
When the logistical aspect is complete, the ballot boxes are finally packaged. At this point begins the process of recruitment of tens of thousands of polling secretaries, ushers and supervisors—who all need to be interviewed and trained.
This stage also continues for 17 working days, during which all candidate lists are examined. Any possible defects found in the process can be rectified within five days.
This is followed by disqualifying the candidates that do not meet the set criteria. The candidates have two days to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, who is required to hear all the arguments and make a final decision within the next five days.
This stage lasts 16 working days and includes the packaging of unique materials meant for each polling station, which cannot be send out without the approval of the candidates. The process of printing hundreds of millions of ballots, which can only be made after the Supreme Court makes the final verdict on the candidates list, also begins.
In addition, more than 20,000 ballot secretary employees and volunteers begin their training and are assigned to a specific polling station. The outgoing Knesset factions are also required to place their representatives on the local ballot committees.
Two weeks ahead of the election, parties begin broadcasting election propaganda on television and radio, while the Central Elections Committee begins its own campaign meant to encourage voter participation.
The committee adds that the timetable has not changed significantly since the election amendments to the Basic Law: The Knesset were passed in 1969. Back then there were only 3,395 ballots compared to about 11,000 today, and 1.8 million voters then compared to about 6.4 million today.
Posted on December 6, 2019
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