In a virtual briefing on May 11, US and Israeli election officials discussed how to ensure voter turnout and keep polling places safe during the coronavirus pandemic, with Israel's recent experience seen as providing important lessons for American state officials.
The event brought together more than 120 participants from the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), members of their staff and others, according to the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, election officials both here in the US and around the world are working day and night to keep our elections, voters and poll workers safe," said NASS President and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
"During this unprecedented time, it is hugely important to work with our allies like Israel to ask questions and learn from one another. Today's briefing was an excellent conversation and I look forward to continued dialogue."
Israeli Central Elections Committee Director-General Orly Adas and Chief Legal Counsel Dean Livne participated in the briefing, which was held in partnership with Project Interchange of the AJC.
In March, Israel conducted national elections, with precautions instituted to ensure voting and safeguarding of Israel's election sites, voters and poll workers. Special "pop up" polling locations were staffed by paramedics wearing protective suits and masks. Voters and polling station staff were physically separated. Israel's Health Ministry allowed those under quarantine who were asymptomatic to vote, so long as they wore face masks and gloves, did not use public transportation and followed other directives. As a result, voter turnout on March 2 was the highest since 1999, the AJC said.
"Israel's experience conducting elections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic can provide important lessons for American state officials contemplating how to organize polling places to ensure the safety of voters and election workers," said Nisha Abkarian, director of Project Interchange, which brings global decision-makers to Israel to learn firsthand about its complexity and reality.
In December 2019, as part of the project, a bipartisan delegation of 11 NASS members led by the association's president visited Israel and participated in discussions on cybersecurity policies and practices at the state, local, and federal level as it relates to business services, election administration, and records management, according to the AJC.