Government source: Coronavirus could risk elections

Election officials worry most about spread of 'fake news' regarding virus in an effort to deter voters from arriving at the polls; no solution as of yet for Israelis in-home quarantine

Amir Alon|
The latest developments regarding the spread of the coronavirus in Israel could jeopardize the March 2 elections, said a senior government official Sunday night.
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  • With a week to go until Israelis head to the polling stations for an unprecedented third time in less than a year, government and election officials are tasked to deal with various possible scenarios that could pose a serious threat to Election Day, chief among them the spread of coronavirus "fake news" on March 2 itself.
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    ועדת הבחירות המרכזית
    ועדת הבחירות המרכזית
    (Photo: EPA)
    Even if the virus does not spread further, officials are worried that certain groups will use the opportunity to scare the public and spread false reports of infections in certain areas to deter people from voting.
    In such a scenario, the Central Elections Committee and the Health Ministry will need to combat the unsubstantiated rumors to make sure voters are not discouraged from exercising their voting rights based on false information circulating on social media.
    Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Sunday that during a Health Ministry assessment, that the proliferation of such false information is a criminal offense and that he ordered Israel Police to act in accordingly against such offenders.
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    בנימין נתניהו יעקב ליצמן הערכת מצב נגיף קורונה משרד הבריאות
    בנימין נתניהו יעקב ליצמן הערכת מצב נגיף קורונה משרד הבריאות
    Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman during an assessment meeting on the coronavirus
    (Photo: EPA)
    During the assessment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Shin Bet security agency is prepared to deal with foreign elements that might attempt to spread false information during the elections.
    It is not yet clear what will be the protocol for voters returning from Far East countries on which the Health Ministry has imposed a 14-day quarantine.
    If the current order issued by the Health Ministry - barring those returning from China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, South Korea or Japan from attending public spaces for at least two weeks – doesn't change, those individuals will be prevented from voting next week, since there is no legal solution to bring portable ballot boxes to their homes.
    Only in a scenario where health officials amend the order so those quarantined will be able to leave their homes – possibly under heavy restrictions and conditions – then they could possibly vote.
    The Central Elections Committee is examining possible locations where ballot boxes could be placed for those in quarantine. These sites will be isolated from regular polling stations to not risk further infection.
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