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Covid-19: Infected Israelis to vote at drive-through polling stations

Coronavirus-hit voters can cast ballots through their car windows in March's election
Drive-through polling stations will be installed for Israel's upcoming national election in March (Screengrab)
Drive-through polling stations will be installed for Israel's national election in March (Screengrab)

With politicians desperate for every vote in March's election, Israelis suffering from the coronavirus have been offered a novel way to cast their ballot: drive-through polling stations.

On 23 December, Israel was cast into its fourth election cycle in two years after its coalition government failed to pass a state budget. 

Voters will now return to the polls for the second time during the Covid-19 pandemic - the previous was held on 2 March.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz formed an unlikely government in April promising to tackle the pandemic. Instead, cases have shot up and political paralysis has dissolved the alliance.

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The drive-through polling stations are intended to minimise infection risks. Voters will remain inside their cars, present their IDs, then pick a candidate and cast their votes into a ballot box, which will be rolled up to their vehicle's window.

A similar measure was introduced during the US election in November, where drive-through polling stations were installed in Texas, but Republicans attempted to halt the practice and contested the validity of ballots cast in that manner. 

"Our desire is… to give the opportunity to all eligible voters to go vote, but we’ll do all this while taking all possible measures to safeguard public health," Orly Adas, the director of the Central Elections Committee, told reporters.

She said that there would be a 30 percent increase in the number of polling stations in order to reduce crowds, with two booths placed in every station to accelerate the voting process. Masks will be offered and stations will be disinfected regularly.

Israel has reported more than 400,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,240 deaths since the pandemic hit the country in March.

Netanyahu received a Covid-19 vaccine jab last week, kicking off a national rollout in the coming days.

But the massive vaccination campaign, said to be the biggest in Israel's history and titled "Give a Shoulder", will not include millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, despite a recent sharp rise in cases and deaths.