Reconsidering Israel's Overseas Absentee Voting Policy

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Israelis overseas today have begun early voting for the March 2nd election – but only diplomats and official emissaries are eligible to vote. What about Israeli citizens who are working or studying abroad? In many democracies mechanisms exist to allow citizens who are overseas to vote. IDI has proposed a reform that will allow Israelis who the center of their lives are based in Israel to vote in elections.


Dr. Ofer Kenig and Yohanan Plesner of the Israel Democracy Institute have published a proposal to reform Israel’s policy regarding overseas absentee voters. 

Proposal Highlights 

The right to vote abroad will only be given to such a citizen who, on the day of election, has not been abroad for more than 3 years and spent at least three consecutive months living in Israel during this period.

This differentiates between citizens whose center of their lives is in Israel and are away from the county on Election Day – as opposed to those who have moved to live abroad permanently. 

Absentee voting will require early registration – either with the Central Election Committee or Ministry of Interior.

The proposal would provide a solution for the tens of thousands of Israelis living abroad and eligible for absentee voting from these three categories:

1. Israelis who are on temporary relocation abroad by their employer, and who intend on returning to live in Israel.

2. Students who are studying abroad.

3. Young people travelling after their army service – either for work or pleasure.

Israeli tourists and business people travelling during the election can be provided the solution of early voting at a ballot station located in Ben Gurion Airport.

IDI's January 2019 survey shows that:

50% of Israelis favor allowing citizens who are abroad to vote for the Knesset and 41% oppose this idea.

Support absentee balloting – segmentation by political-blocs:

48% on the left, 55% in the center and 52% on the right.

​Eligibility to Vote Overseas​

Country Qualifications
Australia All citizens who are abroad for less than 6 years
Belgium All citizens
Canada All citizens who are abroad for less than 5 years
Denmark All citizens who are abroad for less than 2 years.
  No limitations on governmental emissaries, employees sent on relocation, students or citizens abroad for medical treatment
Finland All citizens
Germany EU Countries: all citizens (as long they lived in Germany for at least 3 consecutive months)
  Other countries:  All citizens who are abroad for less than 25 years
Greece Only official governmental emissaries
Ireland Only official governmental emissaries
Israel Only official governmental (and Jewish Agency) emissaries
Italy All citizens (12 seats in parliament are allocated for citizens abroad)
New Zealand All citizens who lived in New Zealand for at least 1 year and who visited at least once over the past 3 years.
Norway All citizens
Spain All citizens
Sweden All citizens who are abroad for less than 10 years.
  After this period, all citizens who register to retain their eligibility 
United Kingdom All citizens who are abroad for less than 15 years
United States All citizens are eligible to vote in federal elections
  Criteria for eligibility in local elections is determined by each state and county.

Notes: Most countries require advance registration for absentee balloting.