All politics aside in Israel Election Day is a very special time. Not only is it a public holiday celebrating democracy it is also the time when every single Israeli citizen age 18 and over irrespective of religious or ethnic identification expresses his or her choice in freely run and democratic elections.
According to The Basic Law – The Knesset (The Israeli Parliament) Article 4 (official translation):
“The Knesset shall be elected by general, national, direct, equal, secret and proportional elections, in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law.”
In Section 5 of The Basic Law – The Knesset (official translation) the right to vote is defined as follows:
“The right to vote: Every Israel national of or over the age of eighteen years shall have the right to vote in elections to the Knesset unless a court has deprived him of that right by virtue of any law; the Elections Law shall determine the time at which a person shall be considered to be eighteen years of age for the purpose of the exercise of the right to vote in elections to the Knesset.”
For the purposes of national elections the entire country constitutes a single electoral constituency. Israel is governed by a parliamentary democracy system. The direct election of the prime minister, instituted in Israel in 1996, was abolished under the revised Basic Law: The Government (2001) and the the task of forming a government and heading it as prime minister was assigned by the president to the Knesset member considered to have the best chance of forming a viable coalition government in light of the Knesset election results.
Clearly, the rights of all Israeli voters are fully protected under the Basic Law – The Knesset. In Israel this means that polling stations are set up on all Israel Defense Forces Bases, all Israeli Prisons, all Kibbutzim, villages, towns and cities. In addition to this female citizens living in battered women’s shelters, hospitalized citizens and special needs (handicapped) citizens have special polling stations set up specifically for their use. Transportation to polling stations is provided free of charge (paid for by the State of Israel) for all citizens who live further than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from their polling station or who due to special needs require assistance in reaching their polling stations. All polling stations are open for a total of 15 hours from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. There is no need for registration to vote all that is required is the presentation of a valid Israeli Identity Card, valid Israeli Passport or valid Israeli Driver’s License. These three photo-identification documents are allowed because they are issued by Israeli government ministries. Israeli election law does not provide for “absentee from abroad voting” for its citizens residing abroad with the exception of special polling stations in all Israeli Embassies for Israeli Diplomats and their families and on Israeli Flag Ships for Israeli Sailors (both merchant marine and regular Israeli Navy Force members).
The highest voter turn out in Israel was in 1949 when 86.89% of all eligible voters cast their ballots. The lowest voter turn out in Israel was in 2006 when only 63.55% of all eligible voters cast their ballots. In the 2009 National election Israeli voter turnout was 70.24%. To give American readers a point of comparison USA voter turn out for the 2008 Presidential Elections was only 57.45%
As if this writing, noon time voter turnout is reported at 27% of all eligible voters. It is expected that close to 70% of all eligible voters will vote by 10 p.m. tonight.
Veheye Medinat Israel HaDemocratit! Long Live The Democratic State of Israel!