The conundrum of the cameras
The Likud Party is asking the Central Election Committee to allow cameras in polling stations in the Israeli Arab sector, claiming voting law violations had occurred in the last elections; Human rights organizations: Preserving the integrity of the elections is the responsibility of the committee, not of the Likud Party
On election day last April, Judge Melcer was alerted to the fact that Likud party activists placed 1,200 cameras in polling stations in Israeli Arab cities and towns.
Because of the shortage of time to respond and the fact that cameras were already in place and operational, Melcer pronounced there must be no filming was allowed behind the curtains in the voting booths and that only members of the police and the election committee would be allowed to view the material.
Now in advance of the September 17 elections, Likud is planning to expand its filming activity the chairman will have to determine whether filming should be allowed.
A special session of the Central Election Committee to discuss this question, is scheduled for next week.
Though the law is not clear, Melcer had already allowed audio recordings in poling locations but has not allowed any filming inside the voting booth, except under special circumstances.
It was entirely forbidden to film voter lists or protocols but registration of voters as they arrive at the stations, present their I.D cards and receive an envelope in which to place their ballots, was permissible.
Likud is pressing to be allowed to film these procedures again claiming it will prevent illegal acts.
The Likud representative in the election committee David Bitan, claimed after the April 9 vote that violations of the law occurred, alleging that husbands voted on behalf of their wives and that voters were threatened as they arrived to place their ballot.
Israeli media reported earlier this week that the Likud budget for cameras in Arab sector polling stations has been increased to NIS 2 million, and that there is a plan in place to employ hundreds of "observers" on election day and have even sent a request to the Israel Police asking for protection for them on the day.
Hanan Melcer lodged a complaint with the attorney general's office as well as the acting police commissioner, demanding an investigation be launched into this behavior.
The AG's recommendations, on behalf of the public interest to protect the integrity of the elections, are expected next week.
Human rights organizations have already appealed to Judge Melcer asking him to veto any attempt to place cameras for the purpose of monitoring voters.
Member of Knesset Aida Touma-Suleiman from the Hadash party sent the chairman a letter stating that "Likud has no justification for placing cameras in any polling stations Arab or otherwise and that the responsibility for the integrity of the elections lies in the hands of the general election committee and not in the hands of the ruling Likud party.
Touma-Suleiman added she hoped the judge will not cooperate with Likud's scheme to impede citizens' voting rights.
Supporters of the Likud initiative suggest the presence of cameras will deter those trying to sway the elections, while opponents insist this move besmirches an entire sector of the population and even keeps voters who are suspicious of authorities from exercising their rights.