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27 Teves 5760 - January 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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An Army of Clerks and $40 Million for Just One Referendum

by S. Yisraeli

Although no one knows for sure when a referendum on the peace agreement with Syria might be held, Israel's Central Election Committee has already begun making preparations for it. According to a report in Ha'aretz, the referendum will cost about NIS 150 million, assuming that it is held 90 days after the Knesset approves a diplomatic agreement with Syria. If the government wants to push up the date, however, as Justice Minister Yossi Beilin would like, it will cost more.

Squeezing the schedule to 30 or even 45 days after the Knesset confirmation would require a different logistic organization, which would increase the cost of the referendum by NIS 20 million each year that the organization is prepared for it, because the election committee must be in constant readiness to hold the referendum at any time.

This figure only represents the direct cost, in addition to which one must add the cost to the economy of the lost day of work, the production of radio and television ads and state funding for the parties.

The election committee document emphasizes that if the law stipulates that the referendum shall be held within 90 days after the Knesset approves a peace agreement, offices must be available for the Central Election Committee and the regional committee.

In addition, ballot boxes, privacy screens and voting envelopes must be purchased and a wide variety of computer operations must be performed, such as checking the list of absentee ballots and calculating voting results.

Even if it is decided to hold the referendum 90 days after Knesset approval, however, it is doubtful that this could be done.

The head of elections in the Interior Ministry, attorney Ehud Shilat, points out that he needs at least 93 days in order to update the voter lists. In the last elections, there were 4,285,428 eligible voters, and by the referendum date a few thousand people will have been added.

According to the Central Election Committee, before the referendum can be held, about 10,000 clerks must be recruited to serve as ballot committee secretaries and about 12,000 other voting officials must be hired. There is also the need for instructors to explain procedures to the committee secretaries at least once.

But the election committee cannot begin its preparations until the Knesset approves the Referendum Law, Ha'aretz pointed out.

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