How to Vote: a Guide for First-Time Voters

As a relatively new immigrant to Israel, this will be the first election in which I’m entitled to vote in Israel. Because it’s been a while since the last election, many of my friends are in the same situation.

It’s my first election as a voter, but not my first election in Israel. I was here for the Prime Ministerial election in 2001 – the only standalone election for Prime Minister in Israel’s history – and got to visit a polling station to see how the process worked. So, for all those like who are voting in Israel for the first time tomorrow, here’s what you need to do. 

1. Find out where you need to vote

If you’re lucky, you will have received a note through your door telling you where your local polling station is. This note should go to the address on your Teudat Zehut. If you haven’t got a note and don’t know where to vote, check on this website or call the English-language helpline on 1-800-200-135.


2. Go to the polling station

You need to bring a Government-issued photo ID – a Teudat Zehut, driving licence or passport.You don’t need to bring the note that told you where to vote, but it’s a bit quicker if you do so it’s recommended. The polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm, and as long as you’re at the polling station by 10pm then you should be allowed to vote.


3. Actually vote

In Israel, there is no ballot paper with boxes to tick or holes to punch. Instead, you will be given an envelope which you take into the voting booth.

In the booth will be thirty-five piles of paper. On 34 of these piles is one-to-three letter code for a political party. This dates back to when Hebrew literacy was very poor due to the large number of new olim, and voters memorised the letters for the party they wanted to vote for. You can still do this if your Ivrit isn’t good (list here), but you don’t need to – each slip of paper (petek) also has the party’s name written underneath.

Ballot slips (image via Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

To actually vote, you choose your slip of paper and seal it in your envelope, then put the sealed envelope in a ballot box.

The thirty-fifth piece of paper is blank – the “petek lavan“. You can use this piece to write in a party’s letter code if you particularly want to, but it’s not a good idea in case your handwriting is messy or you get it wrong. If the party you want to vote for is missing, it’s better to tell the election officials so they can bring more papers. Some people also use this petek lavan as a way of registering an abstention, putting the blank sheet in their envelope.

When you vote, make really sure that you only put one petek in your envelope, and not two stuck together. A previous voter might have tried to deliberately sabotage one party by sticking their slips together, causing you to  accidentally use two and invalidating your vote. The same goes for any writing, tearing or marks on the slip itself. Make sure you use a clean, unmarked petek. If you’re feeling public-spirited, report any missing parties or damaged slips even if it’s not your party.

That’s about it. Vote early or vote late, enjoy your day off and congratulations for participating in Israeli democracy.

About the Author
Arieh Kovler is a public affairs, PR and communication professional. Before his aliya he was the Head of Policy and Research for Britain's Jewish Leadership Council and director of the Fair Play Campaign, the UK's coordination body against anti-Zionist activity.