Drive-through ballots - Israel's solution to voting in a pandemic

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Israel imposes third national COVID-19 lockdown

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israelis who are sick with COVID-19 will be able to cast their ballots at drive-through polling stations that authorities hope will ensure a smooth election in March while minimizing infection risks.

The March 23 parliamentary election, brought on prematurely due to a seemingly intractable political stalemate, is the country's second since the global coronavirus outbreak. It is also the fourth in two years.

Looking to improve the voting process, the national election committee said it would now open the drive-through ballot boxes for people diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Voters will pull up to a station, a ballot box will be rolled up to their window, and they then present their ID and pick a candidate without having to step outside.

"The station safeguards the secrecy of the vote," the committee's director-general, Orly Adas, told reporters.

Polling station workers will be wearing protective equipment and the committee is consulting with the Health Ministry to come up with the safest protocols. This could include staffing the stations only with those who have recovered from COVID-19 and those who have been vaccinated, she said.

Israel has reported more than 400,000 COVID-19 cases and 3,240 deaths.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Bernadette Baum)