Bennett, Shaked call for recount of soldiers’ votes after just missing electoral theshhold

Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked after their announcement on Dec. 29, 2018 in Tel Aviv that they will form a new Orthodox-secular right-wing party. Photo: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90 

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The New Right party demanded a recount of soldiers’ votes after falling just .03 percent short of the electoral threshold that would give them four seats in the parliament.

The newly formed party, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, needs about 1,380 more votes to be lifted to the required 3.25 percent threshold.

On his Facebook page, Bennett called on anyone who thinks there was an irregularity to let someone on his staff know so they can appeal to the Central Elections Committee.

The counting of the so-called double envelope ballots, comprising the votes of soldiers as well as diplomats working abroad, prisoners and hospital patients, concluded at about 10:30 Thursday morning. There were about 200,000 of them.

The elections committee website indicated at first that the New Right had squeaked past the electoral threshold by .01 percent, but the committee later said it was incorrect and a bug on the website had prevented the total from being revised downward.

The committee said it would review all the ballot tallies before announcing the final numbers.

The total number of valid votes currently stands at nearly 4.3 million.

“The counting of the double-sealed envelopes has ended … but in light of the race being so tight and the significance of every single vote – which can influence the distribution of Knesset seats – and in order to preserve purity of elections, the Central Elections Committee is examining the process of tallying the votes,” the elections ruling body said in a statement late Thursday morning.

Reports of voter fraud and computer tallying errors began to surface on Wednesday night, including questions about communities with voter turnouts of more than 100 percent, accusations that some parties’ paper ballots were missing in voting booths and a high percentage of votes recorded for Arab parties from right-wing Jewish settlements.