Accusations Allege Tampering with Voters’ Records Ahead of Palestinian Elections
Locations of polling stations for the first elections in 15 years were changed without voters’ knowledge
Palestinian voters are accusing elements within the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence services of being behind changes made to their personal records on the last day of registration for upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
The elections officially announced last month are scheduled for May and July, respectively.
The head of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, Hanna Nasir told reporters on Thursday that “changes made to voters’ information is considered a crime.”
Nasir added that his commission will pursue those behind the tampering. The elections commission filed a complaint with the Palestinian Authority prosecutor-general following the discovery that the locations of polling stations were changed without voters’ knowledge.
The story first broke on social media by Issa Amro, a Palestinian activist based in Hebron who told The Media Line that he was monitoring his election record when he noticed that his name was moved to a voting location far away from his regular one.
“I was expecting some kind of fraud. I was expecting them to delete my name, but I did not expect my voting place to be changed,” he said.
According to Amro, his voting location was changed from the center of Hebron to a remote village in the Israel-administered Area C of the West Bank.
Amro says the change took place in the last hours of the last day of registration for the parliamentary and presidential elections.
“I checked my name and found that my polling place had changed from a school in the city center in an area in which I am active, and where I know most of its residents, to a school in Area C outside the boundaries of Hebron, far from me in a remote area,” he said.
Activists say that the records of about 300 to 500 West Bank voters’ were manipulated in an effort to tamper with the electoral process.
“Honestly, at first, I thought I was the only one being targeted, but when I started asking friends, I found that there was more than one person facing the same problem,” Amro said.
Nasir says 300 people had their places of residence changed, most of them from Hebron, which has long been considered a base of support for Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza. He said that whoever made the changes had access to voters’ personal information, including telephone numbers and date of birth.
More than 93 percent of Palestinian eligible voters are registered for the legislative and presidential elections, the first in 15 years, the electoral commission in Ramallah said Wednesday.
More than 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, and 2 million people live in the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Issam Abdeen, a Ramallah-based expert on human rights law, told The Media Line that such tampering can only be carried out by an influential arm of the government, and one which has access to voters’ national identity numbers.
“The government is behind the action. They want to create a kind of commotion and chaos on Election Day,” Abdeen said. Some of the voters targeted with the changes, in fact, are candidates for the Palestinian parliament.
The Palestinian Authority denied any knowledge or involvement, blaming hackers for changing the addresses. Meanwhile, Hamas accused “influential groups” of the tampering and demanded an immediate investigation.
I was expecting some kind of fraud. I was expecting them to delete my name, but I did not expect my voting place to be changed
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
As soon as Amro discovered the changes, he went on social media to talk about it.
“Unfortunately, the Central Election Commission did not take matters seriously. They told me I could object on March 1,” he said.
That is two weeks after the closing of registration to participate in the elections.
“This is a national crime. An electoral crime,” Amro said.
The timing of the tampering with the voter register is considered suspicious because it occurred in the final hours before the registration deadline, well after the time that a voter might verify his or her information. No changes can be made now that the deadline has passed. Questions and complaints about the electoral records could lead to doubts about the elections’ results.
Amro believes the Palestinian Authority intelligence services are behind the attempt to tamper with the voters’ records.
“The intelligence service in the city of Hebron recently distributed mobile phone chips with a validity of ten days to it followers, supporters and those who work for it in order to carry out the changes,” he alleged.
In order for a voter to change his information, he must provide a phone number. When the information is changed, a text message with a code is sent to that phone number to make sure that the person is aware of the change in his personal information.
Amro said he is not satisfied with the steps taken by the Central Elections Commission to respond to the complaints, and he is demanding that those behind the manipulation “be held accountable and be dismissed.”
“We will file a complaint with the police,” Amro added.
Changes made to voters’ information is considered a crime
Dmitri Diliani, a spokesperson for the Democratic Reform faction within the Fatah movement that is affiliated with exiled former Gaza security chief Mohammad Dahlan, told The Media Line that PA officials at the top are behind the changes.
“This is yet another attempt by the Palestinian security forces to interfere in the elections and deter voters from voting. Most of the people affected are known to be in opposition to President Mahmoud Abbas,” he charged.
Diliani accuses the PA of a “total cover up,” since they have not arrested anyone for the records tampering so far. He alleges that the people who changed the voters’ records are known to higher ups and are part of the security services.