“They don’t know how to run a war, they don’t know how to run an election, what DOES the Likud know how to do?” muttered one cold Likud member, 45 minutes into her wait to reach the Likud primaries ballot boxes Sunday morning.
Voting got off to a sluggish start when technical difficulties – which some are attributing to hacking – brought almost all the computerized voting stations across Israel to a grinding halt Sunday, forcing many voters to wait upwards of 2 and a half hours to cast their ballots. At Jerusalem’s Binyanei HaUma convention center, patient and apologetic staff members told crowds they did not know when the voting booths would be open, bringing out a few chairs for elderly voters who found standing in the cold difficult.
Meanwhile, enthusiastic representatives of the 60 candidates vying for the 12 highest spots on the Likud party list handed out pamphlets, cards and stickers explaining the policies and opinions of the voters. Candidates Avraham Negusie (hopeful representative for the Ethiopian sector) and Daniel Tauber (head of Likud Anglos), were on hand in person to meet and talk to voters.
As voters waited, they discussed current events, politics, and the cold weather. One voter from Samaria, Yechiel, expressed his disapproval of the Prime Minister – and current Likud party chairman – Benjamin Netanyahu. “I am disappointed in the ceasefire. I think it will just end up being something that buys time for Hamas to refuel, maybe at best a pause in fighting,” Yechiel said. “I wish I could vote Netanyahu out today. I don’t think I’ll even vote for Likud in the real national elections.”
Others expressed their support of Netanyahu, who stands to be re-elected as head of the party. “I think the same as before the war,” Mordechai from East Jerusalem said. “I think Bibi should be re-elected. He is the best option by far, proven over time. I hope he will continue to prove it over the next four years.”
When groups of voters finally started to be admitted, they were treated to a simple explanation of the procedure of voting at several mock voting booths set up on and staffed along the sides of the entrance.
At noon, voters who had arrived around 10am were brought to a new indoor line, where they were told that only 3 of the 80 voting computers were working, causing the line to inch forward slowly. More chairs were brought to accommodate the elderly, as well as teary-eyed children who had been dragged along for an Israeli democratic experience. Another staff member came by to apologize again, saying rumors were circulating that the booths would be held open until 2am to accommodate all the voters who had arrived to vote and been discouraged by the long wait times (in the end, the elections committee decided to extend voting for two hours until midnight).
At 12:50 PM, the author of this article was called into a voting booth, and got to the end of her turn to vote when she realized she had been assigned to the wrong geographic voting area. Asking for assistance from the polite and attentive clerks in front of her booth, an election day attorney was called.
Without asking the permission of the voter (me) or the elections staff, the attorney proceeded to push touch-screen buttons, erasing the voter’s choices in an attempt to restart the process (even as the voter protested that it was very clear to her how to vote, and that she had done everything correctly). “Let’s see what this does”, the attorney said, as she wiped out my votes.
The screen promptly froze. The clerks expressed their disapproval for the unilateral action on the part of the attorney, and called for a technician to come and fix the problem. A technician, who was on his cell phone, looked at the screen, and told the clerks to attempt an action they said they could not do, due to the freezing of the screen and subsequently their own computers, and rushed off.
I was left running dangerously close to my maximum allowable time for voting, due to my own need to pick up my children from school across town at 2 PM. When another technician did not arrive, and the clerks threw up their hands in dismay, I whirled around found a manager, and demanded immediate assistance in increasingly louder tones. Within seconds, two technicians arrived, withdrew the voter’s name from the ballot box, and had me transferred to a new booth, where I voted as quickly as possible.
Other voters expressed their strong dislike for the waiting, yet many stuck around, rather than foregoing the annoyance and the vote. Many people came armed with lists of people they planned to vote for, while others grabbed lists provided by favored candidates and representative organizations. While some people seemed convinced of their choices, others scratched and scribbled their lists until entering the booths.
SMS messages from many of the Likud candidates ringing on their phones, voters were annoyed, yet curiously tolerant, ready to do what it takes to have their voices heard.
About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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