On September 6, the Central Election Commission held a discussion on high rates of early voting that’s been observed in elections to Barnaul City Duma. According to the Commission’s information, 14,000 people already cast their absentee ballots.
Pamfilova: absentee voting at Barnaul close to 3%, a source of serious concern
— Zakon information agency (@zakon_agency) September 6, 2017
Our estimates are even higher. According to the data from early September 5, in the Industrial district of Barnaul alone, more than 7600 people (4.7% of total number of voters) voted early. At some of the polling stations the share was even higher. For example, at the district election commission #73, 8.3% of voters cast their absentee ballots in a period of 6 days. The largest flow of voters was registered in the first two days. For example, over 250 people voted in the first day of early voting at three polling stations at School No. 127 — our sources say that the teachers simply refused to start teacher-parent conferences until the whole class went to vote.
The political parties taking part in elections already stated that if the number of absentee ballots exceeds 5%, they reserve the right to refuse to accept the election results, and the Communist Party has already submitted a petition for a rally. The Golos movement proposed to the regional election commission ways to improve the transparency of procedures by publishing daily information about the number of voters and by recommending to the district election commissions that they organize a separate count of early voting results, but the regional election commission rejected this proposal. Moreover, on the next day after the meeting, members of the election commissions discovered that the commissions no longer provide this data at all.
Election participants and public observers are worried by the abnormally high rates of early voting in Barnaul because of the previous experience. In 2014, when the governor of Altai Region was elected, 9.6% of Barnaul voters cast absentee ballots — and that was almost a third of the total voter turnover. That being said, the analysis of 10% of the district election commissions demonstrated serious disrepancies between the voting results on the day of the election and the voting patterns of “absentee voters.” On the prinicpal day of election, the candidacy of winner Alexander Karlin was supported by 68% of voters at these polling stations, but in early voting the figure of support grew to 93%. Considering the fact that all experts forecast that this year’s election turnout won’t exceed 20%, one could assert that with such heavy early voting, the election may be over before it actually starts. This is especially true considering the practical impossibility of guaranteeing the safety of voting bulletins in the offices of 250 disctrict election commissions throughout all 10 days of absentee ballot voting.
The Central Election Commission shared these concerns of Altai election voters and dispatched one of its members Alexander Kinev to the region to provide on-spot oversight.