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New Voting System Approved in Knesset

JERUSALEM — The Knesset is to invest around $760,000 to install a new electronic voting system, which will include a fingerprint recognition system for lawmakers. The figure was approved this week by the Knesset joint budget committee, which approved a budget increase of $670,000 to cover the cost of the state-of-the-art system.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin ordered the new system installed after recent scandals in which lawmakers were found to be voting twice, once for themselves and once for absent party colleagues.

The scandal erupted in May, following a high-stakes vote on the government’s emergency economic package, when two freshman Likud lawmakers, Inbal Gavrieli and Gilad Erdan, were found to have cast votes even though they were not present.

One Likud lawmaker, Michael Gorlovsky, was suspended from the parliament for three months after admitting he voted in Erdan’s place. The identity of the second double-voter has not been determined. Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein is reportedly considering referring the matter to the police.

A report released this week after an internal Knesset investigation disclosed at least three more cases of Knesset members voting twice on the economic plan, including Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of the reformist Shinui party.

The investigators, Knesset legal adviser Anna Schneider and security officer Yitzhak Shadar said in their report that it appeared Poraz had sat mistakenly in the chair of Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz of Likud, and had voted from there until Katz arrived and brought the fact to his attention. At that point, Poraz leaned over to his own seat and voted a second time. That vote was canceled and a revote was held.

In addition, the report found, Likud lawmaker Yaakov Edri cast his own ballot as well as one for fellow Likud lawmaker Ehud Yatom, a former Shin Bet official; and Wasal Taha of the Arab party Balad voted both for himself and for party colleague Jamal Zahalka.

The report was based on an examination of the electronic votes as well as the televised records of the plenum discussions.

The probe further revealed that Labor lawmaker Eli Ben-Menahem voted on a separate occasion from the seat of absent Meretz lawmaker Avshalom Vilan. In another instance, Likud’s Michael Eitan voted from the seat of another Likud lawmaker, David Levy.

In view of the findings concerning the behavior of several lawmakers, investigators recommended that their report be transferred to the Knesset Ethics Committee. Press reports have suggested that at least some of the instances represented deliberate efforts by lawmakers to cast the votes of colleagues they knew to be absent.

Last week, Rubinstein, Israel’s attorney general, said that he views the voting fraud as very grave. In a letter to Rivlin, the Knesset’s speaker, Rubinstein said the fraudulent votes were “a grave phenomenon that goes to the root of the workings of the Israeli democratic system.”

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