New App Would Enable Israelis to Give their Votes to Palestinians and the Undocumented

March 13, 2015

Ahead of the 2015 Israeli election, an effort to use mobile technology to enfranchise inhabitants of the occupied territories and others deprived of voting rights is underway.

On March 17, 2015, Israelis will cast their votes for the 20th Knesset. Millions of people within Israel’s borders and occupied territories live under Israeli jurisdiction but are not eligible to vote. Among them are 4.4 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, roughly 60,000 African migrants and thousands of additional undocumented inhabitants. These people are left unrepresented and have no direct influence on political decisions that impact their daily lives and well-being.

In an effort to bring enfranchisement to those affected by Israel’s policies, the artist Ronen Eidelman has developed Vatcher—Vote Matcher, a mobile app that enables citizens who can vote but have chosen to abstain to vote on behalf of those who are legally barred from voting. This initiative was inspired by the Give Your Vote campaign, which started in the U.K. in 2010, when thousands of citizens gave their votes to non-British residents from Ghana, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In 2013 a similar campaign known as the Electoral Rebellion project was successfully implemented during the German elections to protest the lack of real democracy in governmental decision-making on issues such as climate change and economic policy. That year the project spread to Israel, and in the 2013 Israeli elections, local activists gave their votes to Palestinians deprived of voting rights. Using a designated Facebook page, they posted their intentions to abstain from voting and received instructions on which candidates to vote for.

Vatcher is the first mobile app that gives the disenfranchised a means to participate in elections, with the aim of creating a more open and equitable democratic process not only in Israel but also eventually in other countries where democracy is impeded.

Text by Naomi Lev