Israeli municipal elections: What you need to know

“I would say that approximately 80% of a person’s daily life is affected by decisions made in the municipal council, so it is very important to vote.”

By Raphael Poch | | Topics: Elections
Tzfat mayoral candidate Ilan Shohat casts his ballot at a voting station on the morning of the Municipal Elections, on Oct. 30, 2018, in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat. Credit: David Cohen/Flash90.
Tzfat mayoral candidate Ilan Shohat casts his ballot at a voting station on the morning of the Municipal Elections, on Oct. 30, 2018, in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat. Credit: David Cohen/Flash90.

With nationwide municipal elections on Tuesday, Israelis, from soldiers on the front lines to evacuees from the north and south, are facing daunting and unprecedented logistical challenges.

Here is a comprehensive guide to the Israeli Municipal Elections 2024.

 

When is election day?

After several postponements (the elections were initially scheduled for Oct. 31, 2023), most Israelis will choose their local leadership on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Should another round of voting be needed, due to a race being too close to call or to no candidate receiving a majority of the vote, a second round will take place on March 12.

Evacuees, however, will not be voting. The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee decided that nine regional municipalities whose residents were evacuated as a result of the war will cast their votes on Nov. 19, 2024, more than a year after the originally scheduled election.

Among the regional councils affected by the evacuations are Eshkol, Upper Galilee, Ashkelon Coast, Mevo’ot HaHermon, Mateh Asher, Ma’ale Yosef, Merom HaGalil, Sdot Negev, Sha’ar HaNegev, Shlomi and in the cities of Kiryat Shmona and Sderot.

In Metula and Kfar Ghajar, which were also evacuated, there is only one candidate for the head of the local council, each of whom leads the only party list in the running, so there is no need for an election.

 

Voting eligibility

On Feb. 27, some 7,190,584 residents in 241 municipalities and regional councils will have the opportunity to vote. There will be two separate ballots, one for the head of the municipality and the other for the party list whose members are running for council seats. In some cases, if there is only one candidate for the head of the council, elections will only be held for the parties that make up the council. A complete list of candidates, both for heads of municipalities as well as the lists running for local councils, can be found on the government website in Hebrew and Arabic.

Anyone 17 years of age on or before election day and who is on the voters’ register can participate in the elections for local municipalities and regional councils. The voters’ register closes every year 47 days before election day.

In addition to citizens, anyone with “permanent resident” status is also entitled to participate in the elections for local municipalities and regional councils. These are people who live in Israel permanently, center their lives in Israel and hold a permanent residency permit. Although they can participate in local elections, permanent residents cannot be elected as members of the council or lead it.

 

Voting process

Every resident who arrives at a polling station will receive two envelopes from the station’s secretary—one white and one yellow. In the voting booth, voters will need to choose two slips—one yellow, with the name of their choice for the head of the municipality or regional council, and one white, with the letters of the party list of their choosing.

Israelis will get the day off work on Feb. 27, on the condition that they have worked for at least 14 consecutive days for the same employer prior to that date.

However, some companies in the service industry, including transportation and catering, will operate as usual on election day; workers in these fields will not receive a day off, and will instead be entitled to a salary at the rate of 200% or additional leave hours.

Where to vote?

A voter notice specifying the relevant polling station location was sent to all eligible voters in Israel three weeks before the original election date. If you lost the notice, you can locate the polling station through the Interior Ministry’s dedicated website or by calling: 1-800-101-975 or 077-9790060. You can also find out your polling station location by sending an SMS or a WhatsApp message to 053-3801464.

 

Identification at the polling station

Residents need to arrive at the polling station with a valid photo ID. This could be an Israeli identity card, a driver’s license, an Israeli passport, or a border crossing card with the holder’s photo.

 

Voting in the IDF

Soldiers deployed to the Gaza Strip will be able to vote at special polling stations set up in areas held by the Israel Defense Forces. The voting will take place by means of double envelopes for a week prior to election day.

Since soldiers are not allowed to carry identification in enemy territory, identification at these polling stations will consist of a photo of the identifying document displayed on a mobile phone. In exceptional cases, approved by the Interior Minister, a dog tag and identification by another soldier will be sufficient. The details of the attesting soldier will be recorded in the protocol alongside the details of the voting soldier.

 

Soldiers on reserve duty within the country

Citizens doing reserve duty can vote at any of the polling stations set up in IDF bases, after identifying themselves with photo ID. Since the polling station is not located in the local municipality where the elections are held—a “soldiers’ notebook,” containing all the lists of candidates for council membership and for the heads of the various municipalities will be available at the voting booth.

 

I just want the day off. Why should I bother voting?

Avraham Ben Zvi, a council member in the town of Efrat, responded to this question by saying: “The local municipality acts as a funnel for a lot of the national finances that make their way to the residents. Each council has significant wiggle room when it comes to spending on a variety of issues. Among those issues are schools, city maintenance and upkeep, cleanliness, sewage, garbage, recycling, water systems, projects of renewable energy, interface with utilities such as electricity, as well as larger topics such as planning and development.

“Local councils are the ones who decide on zoning and planning issues and whether there be large buildings or smaller houses, for example. The local authorities are the ones to put in recommendations and suggestions to the national government on a wide variety of issues. I would say that approximately 80% of a person’s daily life is affected by decisions made in the municipal council, so it is very important to vote.”

Dr. Adv. Orit Rishpi, the chairperson and founder of Aham, an organization of council members in local authorities in Israel, adds:

“Local authorities run so many elements of our everyday lives. They play a pivotal role in times of emergency like they did during both corona and in response to the current war.  In previous years, the average voter turnout for municipal elections was about 50%. If people choose not to vote, they are deciding to let others determine who the people will be that will decide how their town or city will look for the next five-10 years. That is a lot of power to simply hand over to someone else.”

In this year’s election, approximately 3,500 people are running for municipal or regional council positions in 259 municipalities across Israel.

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