Israeli elections committee bars surveillance cameras at polling stations, preventing intimidation of Arab voters
Adalah: Decision confirms our assertion that Likud’s deployment of surveillance cameras in Arab polling stations was illegal, constituted ethnic profiling of Arab citizens, and was intended to deter them from voting.
Following the legal intervention of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Israeli committee governing national elections decided on Monday, 26 August 2019, to forbid the Likud and all other political parties from deploying surveillance cameras in polling stations on election day, set for 17 September 2019.
During the course of the 9 April 2019 Knesset elections, media reports indicated that members of the Likud party’s polling committee planted some 1,200 hidden surveillance cameras in polling stations in Arab communities.
These reports were subsequently confirmed by the Central Elections Committee (CEC).
Adalah appealed on two occasions immediately after the elections (11 April 2019 and 15 April 2019) to the attorney general, the state attorney, and the police’s northern district commander demanding they open a criminal investigation into the issue, but no probe was ever opened.
CEC Chairman Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer ruled Monday that no cameras will be permitted in polling stations except in specific cases where the ballot secretary – a direct CEC employee – receives specific advance permission from the CEC.
Melcer noted that any other use of cameras is illegal, and that the filming of voters while they are inside the voting booth is strictly forbidden.
Melcer added that he would establish a pilot CEC observer unit with body cameras that could be employed, in unusual circumstances, during ballot counting – but not during the voting itself.
Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher responded to the CEC decision:
“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”.
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