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Feb 9, 2010

Absentee Voting coming to Israelis

Yesterday, in a Likud party meeting, PM Netanyahu announced that he is going to propose, as per his coalition agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu, a law that would allow expatriates, or any citizen outside of the country on election day, the right to vote in Israel elections. Netanyahu says the reason is that this would help Israeli expats to continue to feel connected, and eventually return, to Israel. (source: Ynet)

While lots of people from all sectors reside abroad, or travel for business and vacation, the people expected to benefit from this law the most are on the right-wing of the political map of Israel.

Once Israelis leave Israel, they are often disconnected more or less from the country. the people who stay connected the most, and interested in the elections and activity of Israel, are right-ringers and religious people.

This should give an even bigger boost to the right-wing and religious parties. Of course, that is the only reason Netanyahu would even agree to proposing such a law.

14 comments:

  1. (not G)

    I think this proposal is completely undemocratic. There should be no representation without taxation or having to live with the consequences of your voting.

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  2. Rafi - I understand that position. But I have to ask 2 questions:
    1. what is your opinion about all the Israeli expats who fly in to vote on election day even though they have lived abroad for years? Often political parties or activist groups sponsor flights of expats for voting.

    2. What is your opinion about Israelis voting in other elections, such as US? I am a US citizen and still vote in US elections even though I live in Israel. I dont know which other countries allow absentee voting and which don't, but do you think all absentee voting is wrong?

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  3. the hareidi parties oppose the law. their fear is that haredim in the US/wherever can be pressured by the super antizionists not to vote.

    others, like begin, oppose the law as it is another acceptance of the "dezionazation" (my word) of israel. it gives added legitimacy to living outside of israel.

    one point - that people can fly in to vote is not really relevant. what you allow a couple thousand of people to do, you don't necessarily allow hundreds of thousands to do

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  4. Rafi G, your comparison is not the same. A US citizen still pays tax to the US even if he no longer lives there. This is not true for Israeli expats. So I think Not-G's point is, if they're not affected, why should they have a say?

    But I still disagree. Unless you're talking about an Israeli citizen who renounces his citizenship. Then of course. Otherwise, just because someone leaves Israel doesn't mean he no longer cares about what happens and doesn't mean they're not affected. They still have family, friends and after all, they are still Jews and they are still citizens. What's undemocratic about that?

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  5. so the right way to do this is really for israel to adjust the law to also tax citizens abroad, just like the US does.

    Anyway, why should the tax info sharing agreement between the US and Israel be only one sided with IL giving the US info? If we charge Israeli expats tax, then it will be two-way...

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  6. Rafi G - it's not Israel that's unusual for not taxing expats, it's the US that's unussual in that it does tax them. Just about all countries that I'm familiar with only tax on the basis of residency or where the income is earned; the US, on the other hand, also taxes on the basis of citizenship.

    And with respect to the information sharing article of the US-Israel Income Tax Treaty - the main target of such clause is non-Israeli resident US persons who hide their $$$ in Israeli accounts, not Israeli residents. The reason is that in most cases, Israel would have the first right of taxation with respect to income of Israeli residents, leaving not all that much for the US to tax. With respect to non-residents, though, Israel may not tax them, and the US wants to make sure it gets its piece.

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  7. To clarify, I think that all absentee voting is bad. Maybe if there is a cutoff period so that you can vote if you have been abroad for up to say 3 years that would be OK. I also think that flying people in is wrong. So is voting in the name of the dead or the various other underhand tricks that people do to sway the election results.

    In the end all these tricks undermine the moral right of the government to govern, so they are counter-productive.

    The fact that the US taxes its ex-pats does give a certain level of justification to allow them to vote. However I think they shouldn't be taxing them either... but that's another story... and also no child benefits for US ex-pat Olim.

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  8. Rafi - you cannot lump absentee voting ni the same category as voting for the dead and the like.

    voting for the dead is illegal and fraudulent. absentee voting is perfectly legal. You might not like it and think the aw should be changed, but as long as the law provides for it, nothing wrong is being done.

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  9. The reason this bill is going forward is because electoral reform is one of the main planks for YB. They are using the American system as their model. Personally I think the Westminster Parliamentary System is a better model in many ways.

    I think that there should be a residency requirement for voting in elections. If you want to vote you need to live with the consequences. I also think it is embarrassing that a resident can't vote because they happen to be out of the country on election day. Advance polls and absentee ballots should be introduced to deal with this issue.

    In Canada residents who happen to be overseas (ie students in Yeshiva) are allowed to vote if they have intention to return within 5 years of their departure date. In order to get an absentee ballot you must declare the date you intend to return. As with most countries diplomats and the military are always entitled to vote.

    I think 3 years would work for Israel. Since Israel requires exit visas and track citizens more carefully they could more easily identify people trying to abuse the absentee ballot.

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  10. do you also have to then prove you returned within 5 years or just declare intent to return and never have to actually do so?

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  11. You have to declare a date of return. Technically, I don't think they check too carefully but if you do get caught it could be a serious offence. Returning for vacation or visiting family does not count. I do know people who have made Aliyah and happen to be in Canada on election day. Since they had a voter card (government didn't realize they left) they voted.

    Do to the nature of First Past the Post System the outcome of the election has been determined before they even open the absentee ballots.

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  12. The US taxes all its citizens, even non-residents because of the distinct privilege of being an American. While that may sound arrogant, think about it for a second. Say what you will about their present leadership, policies, etc., but if you're an American now, are you going to renounce your citizenship in order to save the tax? Or is there something comforting in knowing that you are a citizen?

    Assuming you'd stay a US citizen, and therefore a taxpayer, you are still entitled to a voice on matters that will affect you. Here's just one recent example: In some versions of the proposed Obamacare plan, there was a requirement for all citizens, even non-residents to buy into one of the govt health plans, otherwise face a fine of up to $3300 a year per family. Yes, even non-residents would have to buy health insurance that is useless outside the US. Wouldn't this affect me as a taxpayer? Lucky for me I can still vote. I called my Senator's office and said "if you let this bill pass, you'll be out on your ---! But what recourse does a taxpayer have if he can't vote? I don't mean to turn this into a whole debate about the efficacy of voting, I'm just pointing out why there's a link between taxes and voting.

    In Canada, Israel and most other countries, you leave, you sever the connection. You lose the right to vote, but also lose the obligation to pay tax. Why should you when nothing that happens there directly affects you anymore? That's the logic. P.S. The US also intervenes on behalf of its citizens abroad in more meaningful ways than the other countries for theirs.

    But in the case of Israel, I think it's different. If for some reason one day (parnassah, chinuch, etc.) I leave Israel for a while, ch'vsh. Does that mean I've severed my connection? How can you say I'm no longer affected by what happens here? What about Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh? What about Nefesh yehudi homiyah, ulfa'atey mizrach kadimah, ayin l'tzion tzofiyah?

    For the ones who leave Israel and don't feel this connection, they won't vote. For the ones who do, let them vote.

    Anyway that's my vote [sic] on the topic of absentee voting.

    P.P.S. Ehwhy, I always had an issue with FPTP because I feel is it less democratic than proportional voting. 'Nother time!

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  13. wanna - so it is a matter fo pride. because Americans are proud to still be Americans, it is ok. I remember the UK passport gave tremendous honor to the UK citizen and promoted pride in being one. So if Israelis were more proud of being Israeli it would also be ok.

    I get your example of an actual ramification of being American, with the health care plan. These laws come and go. Israel can also make a law that would have ramifications for expats

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  14. Wanna,
    I hate to burst your bubble but the feeling is not unique to Americans. When people leave their countries they leave behind family and friends behind. Just go to Toronto after any World Cup match. There will be a parade somewhere in the city depending on the outcome of the match.

    During the second Lebanon War Canada evacuated their Ex-pat citizens. The Prime Minister even took passengers on his own air plane. I am not sure what the United States is doing that other countries don't do.

    The whole peace process has been a giant failed social experiment. The problem with people who have abandoned the country (for whatever reason) may still be interested in putting there spin on the experiment. There are so many other important variables in choosing how to vote with real life consequences.

    FPTP is not my first choice of voting systems, but pure PR is probably last or near the bottom. I put a higher value on functional government even if it means over representing the majority instead of absolute majority. While, mixed-PR doesn't rank near the top it would probably work really well here.

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