Responding to news that the Chairman of Israel’s Central Election Committee, Justice Hanan Melcer, had ruled that political parties will not be allowed to set up cameras in polling places, three leading civil society organizations in Israel who challenged Likud voter suppression tactics and New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch released the following statements:
NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch said, “This ruling is a victory for democracy. At stake in this deliberation was whether Israel’s ruling party would be legally allowed to actively intimidate Israel’s Arab minority at the polls with the explicit intention to disenfranchise Arab voters. The Likud’s voter suppression tactics were shown for what they were: despicable, devious, and antithetical to any democratic system. Israelis who believe in democracy, inclusion and equality before the law saw a victory yesterday. We are proud to stand with the Israeli civil society organizations that petitioned, testified, and demonstrated to make sure that every Israeli citizen has the right to vote unimpeded.”
Zazim Director Raluca Ganea said, “The victory [yesterday] belongs to the 10,000 citizens who filed complaints along with us to the police and the Attorney General in opposition of cameras back in April and just now appealed to the Election Commission.” She also said, “Justice Melcer’s decision is a democratic and fitting response to attempts to suppress the vote of [Israel’s] Arab citizens. At the same time, given the systematic incitement of the government towards the Arab public, the task of ensuring equality at the ballot box and beyond still lies ahead.”
Zazim, a community organizing group, is planning to launch a wide-scale advertising campaign in Arabic to publicize the Committee’s decision. During the last elections they ran a get-out-the-vote campaign providing mini-buses for Arab voters to the polls. Raluca Ganea testified at last week’s hearing on voter suppression before Justice Melcer.
Adalah Deputy Director General Attorney Sawsan Zaher said, “The decision of Israel’s Central Elections Committee confirms and reinforces Adalah’s statements from the April elections: The Likud party’s placement of surveillance cameras in polling stations in Arab communities constituted ethnic profiling of Arab citizens and was intended to deter them from voting. The placement of cameras was likewise a violation of the constitutional right to vote freely and with privacy. Justice Hanan Melcer also indicates that Likud’s camera operation in the last election – conducted without any legal basis – was an illegal disruption of the election day process, one which culminated in a criminal offense. The attorney general should have ordered a criminal probe into the matter immediately following the election, as Adalah repeatedly demanded, and there is no justification for his failure to have done so. Supervision of the electoral process is the exclusive responsibility of the Central Elections Committee.”
Prior to the ruling, Adalah submitted two requests to Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, to open a criminal investigation into Likud’s hidden camera operation.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel tweeted: “We applaud the Election Commission’s decision, which adopts our position that partisan election observers should not be permitted to film or record the happenings at a polling place. Voting in elections is a fundamental right and we must not allow efforts to intimidate voters, as we saw in the recent Likud elections in Arab towns.”