This blog is NOT about the pit in my stomach that comes from seeing how many people there are in this country who STILL prefer living under a crime minister, and even worse, may have voted extremists and hateful people into power. I will wait until the dust settles and all the votes are counted before eulogizing the possibility of moving towards the light. This post is about the miracle of our democracy, in our teeny tiny Jewish Democratic State. I was a volunteer last night on behalf of Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) to observe the vote-counting process. (small digression for a HUGE shoutout to the Lapid campaign which was squeaky clean, intensely positive, and filled with kind, sane, law-abiding people who worked like crazy to bring about a change. Guys, it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings…).
Back to the miracle…I was assigned to a polling station in a very BIBI, right-wing neighborhood. I arrived at 9:00 pm as instructed. Just to give you an idea of where I was, 5 minutes after I got there, the salty older security guard, a little punchy from his 15-hour day that wasn’t over yet, addressed a young volunteer as, “Hey you, Ethiopian, come over here.” Horrified, I watched helplessly as the ensuing fist fight (and possibly worse) was thankfully prevented by some other strong polling station workers…meanwhile, my anxiety was mounting…At 9:15 pm, I walked into the classroom I was assigned to, after all the staff there had been there since 6 am, and am happy to say I was welcomed with open arms and smiles.
At 10 pm, our poll station manager said, “I am locking the door so that we can count the votes. You cannot leave until the process is completed”. We, a very young Arab woman, a very young Dati Leumi man, a very young Israeli woman whose clothing did not identify her politics (does it ever?), another Dati Leumi man in his 30’s with tzitziyot out, a classic Moroccan older woman straight from central casting who seems to be a fixture there, an official representative from the Elections Authority with a running video camera on his belt that beeped every 10 minutes, and ME, a middle-aged woman who grew up in New Jersey, proceeded to count each and every ballot BY HAND…
The vote-counting process is extremely controlled, with kits that include a way to communicate to the final counters everything that we found in those promising blue envelopes. There are rules for every exigency. Did you know that you can put up to three slips with the same party on them (dang those little slips that stick to each other) and your vote will still count (as one vote of course)? But if you put in four, your vote is disqualified? And did you know that the little voting slips are skewered onto little narrow boards with pointy sticks coming out of them to keep everything clean and organized during the counting?
Perhaps the most amazing thing was the robocalls that the poll station manager was getting throughout the whole process where he had to push buttons on his phone indicating how far along we were into the process… While I can imagine that there are still a few people who find a way to cheat this elaborate system, there are so many checks and balances built into the process, that I find it hard to imagine how.
I salute the National Elections Committee and the thousands of people who make this process work so well, and feel sad for them that they have had to do this four times in two years. It must be exhausting beyond belief for the people at the top. In short, I am amazed, proud and thrilled that I live in a full-on, kicking and screaming democracy, that is doing everything it can to find a way to create a stable government in an extremely polarized country. I pray we don’t go to a 5th election, but if we do, you can be sure that I will be even more involved the next time.
Yeah for us!