Israeli diplomats and envoys in 77 different countries around the world on Wednesday began voting in the national elections. This year the vote, which is set to take place in Israel on March 2, is clouded by the coronavirus outbreak making the process in East Asian countries where the virus is rampant, challenging.
Besides the difficulty of getting to the polling stations, the diplomats in the Far East also have not yet figured out how the ballots will be returned to Israel since anyone returning from prominent East Asian states are required by the Health Ministry to self-quarantine upon landing for at least two weeks.
The first Israelis to cast their votes in the third election in less than a year, were the staff of Embassy of Israel in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, who voted Tuesday night (Israel time).
By Wednesday night, all of Israel's diplomatic missions abroad will already have voted, with the last ones being the diplomats in the state of California in the United States.
The biggest polling station will be put up at the consulate in New York, where 812 eligible voters will castle their ballots.
Israel's missions in East Asia finished the voting process by Wednesday afternoon (Israel time). In China, Hong Kong, and Thailand, emissaries wrere seen arrived with medical masks on.
"We are happy to participate in the celebration of Israeli democracy," said Israeli Ambassador to China Zvi Heifetz.
"Unfortunately, the turnout is very low due to the fact that many employees and their families are currently in Israel since the region is dealing with the coronavirus."
Isaac Bachman, who oversees the process, said that "the number of voters in China is low due to many being evacuated earlier this month."
"Out of 160 eligible voters, only 25 to 40 will vote."
To manage the vote, every embassy has an election committee, which usually consists of the consul and another high-ranking official, preferably not from the Foreign Ministry but rather a military or cultural attaché.
Every voter enters the voting booth and places their ballot in a sealed envelope. They then exit the booth and the envelope is placed in a second envelope with the voter’s name and identification number on it.
The main issue for the organizers of the vote abroad is returning the ballots from China, Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong back to Israel for them to be counted.
In the case of China, the couriers who will be returning to Israel with the votes will immediately enter a two-week quarantine upon their arrival.
In the case of Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong; the ballots will be delivered to New Delhi in India, where another courier, who didn't reside in any of the countries where the virus appears to be spreading, will bring them to Israel.