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A-G: lacks the authority to legalize the Likud’s proposal to place cameras

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit told the Central Elections Commission on Tuesday in a legal brief that it lacks the authority to legalize the Likud’s proposal to place video cameras at Israeli-Arab polling stations.

Mandelblit said that due to the constitutional issues involved as well as potential criminal liability, only a full-fledged Knesset law might be able to create a constitutional balance allowing some kind of video camera.

He said that a mere administrative decision by the commission would be insufficient to make the controversial proposal in question legal.

During the April 9 election, the Likud Party placed cameras at a number of Israeli-Arab polling stations without advance permission, and were referred to Mandelblit for criminal violations of the right to privacy.

The attorney-general appears to have avoided charging Likud members with a crime for their past conduct, but is also taking a strong stand against allowing a repeat of the video cameras in the impending September 17 election.

While the state cited a number of legal problems with the use of cameras at select polling stations, privacy rights regarding voting and the potential for creating illicit data banks from the videos as well as impinging on the freedom to vote through intimidation appeared to be the central issues.

In addition, the state’s legal brief to the commission noted that the police have nixed a compromise proposal that police be placed at polling stations with body cameras.

While this might seem less invasive and more neutral, the police said it was a practical impossibility as they only have the manpower capacity to maintain public order and not to man polling stations.

The Likud attacked Mandelblit’s legal brief as “unacceptable,” saying it has “sought to check hundreds of polling stations, in which suspicions of counterfeiting the Arab sector emerged in the last elections.”

The statement continued with accusing the attorney-general’s office of “preventing basic polling supervision in a way that could hurt democracy.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan responded to the legal brief saying that there is no right to privacy in the public sphere and that this right only exists during the moments a citizen goes behind a curtain to vote – a moment no one is trying to videotape.
He said that the Likud has the right to invest its own money in ensuring that there is no voter fraud in polling stations that have had issues historically.

Further, he added that, “If the Arab parties want to place video cameras in polling stations in settler and haredi communities, then let them.”

The several human rights groups and the Israeli-Arab parties who have vociferously opposed the cameras have said that there are sufficient safeguards already in place against voter fraud and that the entire video campaign is a ruse to scare away Israeli-Arab voters with “big-brother” tactics.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh responded to the legal brief saying, “Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], you are afraid of Arabs, but we are not afraid of you. We will not surrender to scare tactics of this government of incitement and hate.”

The commission is expected to make a ruling by next week.

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