Guest Post: How Likud Debugged the Primary System for Labor

..or My Five-and-a-half-hour – UPDATE:  Six-hour – Attempt to Successfully (Maybe) Vote in the Likud Primary

By Israellycool reader mzk1

NOT mzk1’s hand (photo credit: Gideon Markowitcz/Flash90)

Well, we have a new thing in Israel called the “Primaries” – pronounced just like that, with the embedded English plural, whether or not it actually applies – and I kind of got roped into it. There is a push by at least one faction to get a lot of people to vote in the Likud primary, and since my wife actually did vote for Likud last time, I figured she should register. (She voted for both Bibi and Barry; maybe she can arbitrate between them.)  A friend of ours, a Chabad lady war veteran, arranged the meeting, and at the end they registered me too.

Of course, there’s a catch. Each of us had to pay a membership fee, not a token amount, and they take it out of your credit card every year until you stop them.  Plus you cannot vote until you’ve been a member for a year.  I figure the Likud makes a pretty penny from all of this.

As it turned out, the Likud had several elections in that short period, and now we finally had a chance to get something for our money. But this wasn’t like a regular Israeli election, where you have to vote where you live (or at your army base), your company has to give you off to vote , and you even get a free bus ticket to your home district. In the primary you vote anywhere, and the computer figures out your local district. And there lay the problem – the computer.

You see, regular Israeli elections have a nice, low-tech system, where you have a slip of paper for each party, with one to three large letters on top, sometimes inherited from a predecessor party going back to the first elections and a perhaps fanciful description of who or what the party represents on the bottom. You show your official national ID – after all, what country could be so backward and corrupt as to allow voting without ID – stick the paper in an envelope, and stick it in the box. Nice and simple. But the primaries use computers.

So at 4 P.M. I clocked out of work – here even the CEO punches the clock – and got a ride with a co-worker (Florida lady, not religious, made Aliyah as an adult, as did two sisters and her Mom, and happy to hear I was voting) who lives in the town we work in, Yoqneam  (Joshua 12:22). The voting booth was like a mini-DMV office, a couple of computers for registering, a laptop, and a couple of booths with computers. But the system was stuck, apparently at the other end.

It appeared most of the people there were from the national election commission. They were very nice, friendly, and free with information. I told them about the mess with the Republican ORCA system, and about the machines that always came up “Obama”.  At one point someone, perhaps based on the way I was dressed, asked if I came to give a blessing. I replied that I was not a rabbi but a computer programmer, and perhaps I could take a look. They did let me take a look, but I didn’t get too involved, as the problem was supposed to be at the other end.  They told me Labor would use the same system later in the week, so I guess we were getting their bugs out for them.

I went out to get my list of candidates, but the booth of the faction that recruited me was empty. I was surrounded by young men with knitted kippot, politely proffering their various favored candidates. They were gentlemanly when I requested privacy, so I called my friend the Chabad veteran, who had a part-time job with the Likud for the primaries, and she gave me the list of faction-supported candidates. I was disenchanted with one candidate, so I crossed her of the list and substituted the Druze candidate Ayub Kara, largely as a hat tip to IsraellyCool commenter Juvanya. I called my wife and gave her the list.

The system was still out, so someone directed me to a synagogue across the street – hey, this is Israel – and headed back after services. Still down. They told me that there might be voting the next day, but it wasn’t decided, and only a small percentage of the voters had voted.  In the meantime my wife had taken a bus down to the Haifa convention center, found the voting area, and voted  (or so she thought). I walked back up the sidewalk to the mall, took a taxi up the hill, and clocked back in. Two hours, nothing accomplished, the last day of the timeclock period, and I’m short on work hours.

But I had a lot of money invested in this. So I left a bit early (7:40). I had quite a bit of luck; I was offered a ride down the hill, the bus to the Haifa terminal (across from the mall that was hit during the Gulf War) was quicker than usual, and I made the next bus to the Convention Center. But the buses go through a nice bit of the city before they get there, and when I got there it was a bit hard to figure out where to go. (There was a childrens’ festival – James Bond theme – going on.)

Well, the voting area was huge; the outer area looking like a fancy wedding garden. A nice young Ethiopian gentleman asked me to vote for him; I felt bad I didn’t have a free slot. There were a bunch of people at the gate, and I wasn’t sure whether it was a line or I was supposed to push through. As I went through, a bunch of people pushed brochures on me. When I got to the registration, the guy ahead of me was having a nice conversation with the lady there (there had been some delay). When I found my ID and told them I wanted to register, she went back to processing him, but slowly, continuing the conversation.

The other lady got free, so I went through – also with a small conversation – and went to the voting booth. It was easy to do, although you had to vote for a full 12, plus one local guy, and since there was only one, I had to vote for him to get my vote saved. Then I went in circles trying to find the bus stop, and finally got home at 11 P.M., with just one hour to work before the timeclock period ended.

No lines, and yet it took over four hours. But at least we had voted. Or so we thought.

The next day, as I’m getting home at 9 P.M., our friend calls and said our votes weren’t registered. I ask them to check, and they think it’s just my wife’s vote. They send a car, we squeeze in with a friend who hadn’t voted, and go down to the Likud office where there are staff from the software company. The registry people are polite and very careful of the rules. My wife votes almost precisely at the cut-off time, perhaps the last person in the country to do so.

My vote had already gone through. Or had it?

Aussie Dave adds: More on the computer glitch


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media