Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Election Day

Supporters of various parties and candidates set up tables and banners near the entrance of a local Pisgat Zeev polling station.
Yesterday, I was off to cast my vote. In Israel, the government sends you a little card with the address of your polling place, usually a local school, and a poll number, and you take it with you to show at the door. My official address, as far as the government is concerned, is still my cousins' place in Pisgat Zeev where I lived when I first made aliyah. Unfortunately, my card got lost in the bureaucracy and I never received it. I called the tol-free 1-800 number that lets you enter in your identity card number and then responds with the polling location. Busy. I tried again and again over the last 48 hours before the polls opened, but it was busy the whole time. So someone from Nefesh B'Nefesh said, "Why not just find out where your cousins are supposed to go and then go there. You all have the same address so it should be the same place."
So I called my cousins, went to the site, and waited while they checked the list. Of course, I wasn't on. Meanwhile, I bumped into my old friend Tzvi at the entrance.

"Don't speak, do! Arcadi Gaydamak for Mayor"

"Hey," I asked him, "who you voting for?"
"I'm casting a blank ballot."
"You came all the way back here from work during your lunch hour to cast a blank ballot?"
"I want 'em to KNOW I don't like 'em."

"The Hope! Nir Barkat for Mayor"
The polling people couldn't find my name on the list, so they gave me a number in the Jerusalem municipality to call. The municipality gave me the number of the elections division. The elections division told me to call this guy named Avner Cohen and gave me his number. Avner told me to call the interior ministry, who then referred me to the Jerusalem branch. Finally, I received my polling address and poll number. It in a different part of Pisgat Zeev, so it was back to my car to ride across town.

A poster for Meir Porush, referring to the exodus of Israelis leaving municipal Jerusalem for the more affordable outer settlements, "100,000 new residents," and below, a cartoon of Porush, with "Jerusalem will love Porush"

Polling is much more effective here. The poll is in a classroom. Only one voter is permitted in the room at a time, and you are carefully watched by elections officials and representatives of the parties on the ballots. I went in and was asked for the voter card which I immediately told them I hadn't received. From their nonchalance, it seemed that this is the sort of thing that happens all the time. They checked me off the list, and I went behind a cardboard screen. Picked one yellow card for my choice for mayor, and one white card for my party choice for city council. Stuffed them in the envelopes, walked around and dropped them in the ballot box. It's a much more effective system than in America. No hanging chads or guessing at the voters' intent here.

Ballot Slips

A Barkat supporter walks around an intersection passing out flyers while keeping an eye on his campaign posters.

Israeli elections are also see much more involvement. Every street corner is plastered with signs, and activists with walkie-talkies stand guard over their respective candidates' signs. Slogans blasted over loudspeaker from passing cars, flags, activists and candidates shaking my hand. It was like a big party.

Meir Porush supporters got out of school early to guard campaign posters.

Meir Porush's little helpers

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