March 4, 2020 / 2:33 PM / in a month

Masked Israeli monitors count coronavirus votes, carefully

SHOHAM, Israel (Reuters) - Gloved and masked, Israeli election monitors on Wednesday counted the ballot papers of voters suspected of coming into contact with coronavirus.

An Israeli election monitor wearing a mask and gloves holds a ballot for the Likud party, headed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as votes cast by Israelis in home-quarantine over coronavirus concerns following Israel's national election are counted, in Shoham, Israel March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

More than 4,000 such voters cast ballots on Monday at special booths that were sequestered and sterile. They donned surgical masks and gloves as Central Elections Committee delegates watched through a nylon partition.

The committee said its senior directors had volunteered to count the votes, to spare staff vacillation over health risks, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought re-election under the weight of an imminent corruption trial.

Taking care to avoid paper cuts, the monitors - some in protective suits, others making do with masks and gloves - sorted through piles of ballots in a guarded pavilion.

“We wanted to make ourselves an example, to show that the Central Elections Committee cares about every single vote, every single one, no matter what the risk is,” Dean Livne, the committee’s chief legal counsel, said through a blue face mask.

The committee had set a target tally of 1,000 votes per hour, reflecting public pressure for resolution in what was, amid political deadlock, Israel’s third election in a year.

How Israel executes a vote under the shadow of the coronavirus could offer lessons to other countries, including the United States, which holds a presidential poll in November.

Livne said the Central Elections Committee was notified that some other countries had been observing, but did not name them.

Israel has reported 15 coronavirus cases and quarantined thousands of people on suspicion of exposure.

The latter include the general in charge of Israel’s military operations, hundreds of children from at least two schools and hundreds of soccer fans believed to have sat close to an infected person at a Tel Aviv match last month.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrew Cawthorne

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