Six days after the municipal elections, the city of Beit Shemesh, population 85,000, is emerging as a place where the vote was significantly messed with, and as more and more testimonies are surfacing, it is possible that the scope of the corruption will force the courts to become involved.
According to the final results of the vote, as published by the Ministry of the Interior, incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul, Shas, has won with 50.5 percent (17,655 votes), compared with 47.86 percent (16,741 votes) his opponent, Eli Cohen, Jewish Home.
The difference between the two, 924 votes, may just be small enough to fall below the number of suspected fraudulent votes, and justify some kind of corrective government action.
According to Ma’ariv, voters who came to the election stations discovered to their horror that someone had already voted using their name. In a significant number of stations Haredim were caught attempting to vote with someone else’s ID card. In one station the number of vote envelopes was higher by several dozens than the number of registered voters there. So no one doubts the trend, the question is whether the mounting number of anecdotes of fraud and fraud attempts justifies a legal intervention.
Reuven Haro, a vote observer in the Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet neighborhood told Maariv his assigned voting area was almost exclusively Haredi. “Early in the morning, a Haredi young man came in, handed us his ID card and went behind the curtain to vote. We passed the ID card between us and something looked suspicious. When the man came back, one of the vote committee members asked him what was his mother’s name, and he answered. I took the card and asked him how old he was. He said, 27, but the card said he was 24.
“I saw he had two registered daughters. I asked him, what are the names of your daughters? He couldn’t answer. The ID card picture was of a blond man, while the man before us was dark. We called up the Interior Ministry operation center and they told us to disqualify him so he couldn’t vote again, and to give him back the card. Just like that. We thought it was strange, because it looked like a criminal violation to me, but that’s what we did and the man went home.”
Y, who served as vice chair of the election committee in the Menucha V’Nachala neighborhood, also a Haredi area, told Ma’ariv: “We had several improper or suspicious cases like that, and the worst of them happened towards the end of the day. A young Haredi man showed up to vote, and the picture in his ID card was from 20 years ago. You couldn’t recognize him. He went behind the curtain and stayed there way too long/ When he came out, I took out his ID card personal data attachment and asked him to tell me the names of his children. He knew the first two, but couldn’t recall the third and was stuck. And then the election committee chair, a Haredi man who belongs to one of the Chassidic groups in the city, started screaming at me: Stop, leave him alone, I know him. The man took advantage of the tumult, left the ID card and fled. We handed the card to the police, but this was a huge miss. The only way to find out what really happened is by interrogating the chairman. He knew the guy.”
Yossi Korem, chairman of the election committee in the Cheftzibah neighborhood, told Ma’ariv: “In the afternoon a Haredi young woman came to vote, and it was later discovered that she had already voted before with a different ID card, and a different wig. We were lucky that a committee member recognized her and said, This woman was already here a short while ago. We asked her if she had already voted and she denied it. The picture in the card looked similar to her, but the head cover was confusing and made it very tough to identify. We started asking her questions. We asked when she was born, she said, Around the month of Adar.” She could not recall her children’s names. we called the police and they took her for questioning. It turned out this was her second vote.”