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Statement19 September 2021, 14:35
Collage: Ksenia Telmanova

Main trends of the voting day

The problems identified on Saturday with the security of ballots and election documents at night persist. In addition to the already noted problems with the sealing of polling premises, safe deposit boxes, and video surveillance on Saturday night, night-time intrusions into these premises were also observed. As a result of at least some of these intrusions observers suspected falsification.

We receive reports of obstruction of the work of observers and members of commissions and, at times, of coercive pressure against them. At the same time, in case of conflicts between observers, candidates and members of commissions, the police either remove themselves or unquestioningly carry out clearly illegal instructions of the chairmen of the commissions. 

Ensuring public scrutiny on election day

A prerequisite for the elections to be recognized as complying with democratic standards is public election observation. It is the creation of conditions for such observation that determines the compliance with the principle of openness and transparency in the activities of the system of election commissions enshrined in Article 3 of the Federal Law "On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right to Participate in the Referendum of the Citizens of the Russian Federation".

The Russian Constitutional Court points out that the right of citizens to participate in government is not limited to ensuring free participation in voting itself but implies the right to control the procedures related to vote counting and determination of the voting results, as well as in the possibility of a rightful response to revealed violations (Decision of the CC of 22.04.2013 No. 8-P). In addition, the Russian Federation, by signing the Convention on Standards of Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights and Freedoms in the CIS Member States, undertook to recognize the existence of public observation as one of such standards. 

However, violation of the rights of observers, commission members, and media representatives remains one of the most common problems on voting days. On September 19 (before 10.00 Moscow time), Golos received 69 reports of such violations from 19 regions and from polling stations abroad. The problems are traditional: refusals to let people into the voting premises, restrictions of photo and video shooting, and refusals to review documents. 

There are instances of forceful action that are particularly troubling.

In St. Petersburg unknown persons beat up Nikita Sorokin, a candidate for the Legislative Assembly (PEC No. 1459). The source specifies that Sorokin has a disability. One of the recordings shows him being strangled.

In Svetochnaya Gora village, Kostroma region, unknown persons punctured the tires of a car transporting observers and PEC members with consultative voting rights - the car was parked next to PEC 305 at the time.

In Kotelniki, Moscow region, the entrance to the polling station for a TEC member with consultative voting rights was blocked by unknown persons wearing badges of observers and members of the commission with consultative voting rights.

An unusual case occurred in Novashinskiy District of Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast (PEC No. 1409) - there, in order to remove an observer from the polling station, both his parents were called with requests and also tried to call the TEC to consider a complaint just before the vote count. Subsequently, one of the safe deposit boxes at that polling station was found to contain 200 more votes.

In Konykovo district of Moscow, Svetlana Dudkina, chairperson of PEC 2205, snatched the phone from a member of the commission with the right to vote and took it to an adjacent room - a police officer saw what had happened. There were also recorded threats to break the phone made by Andrey Bocharov, a member of PEC 2867 with voting rights, to the proxy of candidate Lobanov (Filevsky Park District).

The Russian embassy in Beijing prohibited taking phones and video cameras to the polling station on the grounds of security restrictions (PEC No. 8165). However, the embassy's press service employees are not under such ban.

In Phuket, PEC 8380 chairman Vladimir Sosnov  refused to let observers into the polling station, explaining that the list of Yabloko observers was allegedly annulled by the CEC, while since the time difference with Moscow does not allow getting an official confirmation, he suggested waiting outside the polling station.

In the Oktyabrski district of Ufa, a commission member with the PSG (PEC No. 252) was prohibited to record on video the process of sealing safe deposit boxes.

Improper storage of ballots and election documents, falsification

As early as the first night of 17-18 September, there were problems with the security of ballots and election documents: they were often stored in unreliable safes, unsealed rooms, and without video surveillance. These problems persisted on the second night. For example, at PEC No. 2013 in Odintsovo, Moscow region, unused ballots  were left lying in the open space overnight (on the backs of chairs) as there was no safe at the PEC. 

Problems with improper storage of ballots were also noted in Moscow; Moscow, Saratov and Sverdlovsk regions. The chairperson of PEC 349 in St. Petersburg improperly sealed the safe deposit boxes for two days. In Khimki, Moscow region, the chairperson of PEC No. 3595 prevented  the sealing of the neighbouring PEC No. 3197 by staying at the polling station for more than 1.5 hours and refusing to leave it, without giving any reason for being at the polling station. At 21:40 a.m. deputy head of TEC in Khimki Maxim Balabanov arrived at the polling station together with an unidentified person. They put pressure on observers, gave instructions to a law enforcement officer to remove observers from the polling station. The observers were forced to leave the polling station, which was left unsealed. 

Another removable bottom at PEC No. 1102 of the Sverdlovsk Oblast

Failure to comply with the procedures for sealing premises and safes and violation of the rules for keeping election documents do not in themselves lead to falsification but deprive observers of the opportunity to make sure that unauthorized access to ballot papers - the integrity of elections - has been excluded. Moreover, the reports received at night and early in the morning testify to nightly intrusions into the premises where election documents were stored. 

Thus, representatives of public organization "Observers of St. Petersburg" report that at 00:45 on 19 September at PEC No. 88 work was in progress. However, a member of the higher election commission was not allowed into the polling station premises. PEC chairperson Ksenia Minashkina confirmed by telephone that she was at the polling station and "working with the documents," but would not let anyone inside because the commission's work time had already expired. A police squad was called to the place, but to no avail: officers arrived at the place, but they did not help to get the TEC member to the polling station, and left without drawing up a protocol and checking what was going on in the PEC. At 1 a.m., six people left the PEC, including the chairperson and the secretary of the commission. A similar story took place near St. Petersburg PEC 38, where the head of precinct commission Marina Novikova and two people tried to break in late at night. 

Unknown persons were spotted late at night (from 23:30 till 00:40) at polling station № 88 in St. Petersburg. A representative of TEC #31 tried to clarify the situation. The doors of the polling station were closed. A man in a police uniform came to the door on a knock from inside. He refused to let the TEC representative in despite the provided documents and reported that there was no one at the polling station. The police were called, who were told from the inside that the chairman of the commission and his deputy were at the polling station. After that, the police left without drawing up a protocol. Shortly, young men arrived at the polling station, and at 00:40 7-8 people came out of the premises. Together with an escort they left the territory. Complaints were filed to the CEC, police, and prosecutor's office. 

At St. Petersburg PEC 471 on 18 September observers registered a lower turnout than the chairman of the commission had announced (by 80 people or a third of the number of those who voted) and this morning it turned out that the safe with the ballots was not sealed for the night and some of the commission members worked at the building of the PEC. 

At St. Petersburg PEC 1138 in the morning of 19 September 2021 (at 7:10 a.m.) a safe was found to have been previously sealed with voters' books, with a protective sticker which had been removed and reattached. 

Observers recorded  strange activity of polling station commission No 603 in Borskoye village of Samara region, where at 23:45 three women were actively working with voters’ lists and writing something in them. According to Mikhail Matveev, a deputy of the Samara Regional Duma, a candidate for regional deputy Murtazin arrived at the place, but he was not allowed into the premises.

At 7:00, a member of Commission No. 2351 with the right of deliberative vote (Moscow, Teply Stan district) received a message that the seals at PECs 2350 and 2351 were broken, because the cleaner came during the night. The police were called to investigate. 

In Nakhabino, Moscow region, in the morning of 19 September 2021, an observer noticed a difference in the signature left on the safe with the ballot papers and the voter lists. The chairperson of the commission admitted that he opened the safe to recount the ballots. The chairperson also said that he decided to recount the ballots solely between PEC members, without involving observers. 

In Samara region, at PEC 2511, a member of the commission with consultative voting rights also discovered that the seal with which the voting room was sealed had been torn off. 

Not surprisingly, such reports raise doubts among observers, commission members and candidates about the integrity of election commissions. 

Thus, in Novokuznetsk of the Kemerovo Oblast an observer reported that during the night from September 18 to 19 the number of voters at PEC 724 increased by more than 300 residents: "Last night we had 500 voters registered in the records according to the chairman of PEC 724 of the Central District of Novokuznetsk. Today in GAS "Vybory" it is written that 841 people voted at this polling station. That means that 341 voters apparently voted during the night," said Vladimir Shetkhman, an observer for candidate Vyacheslav Chernov nominated by the "Yabloko" party.

At Sochi PEC 4520, after the closing of the polling station and the procedure of transferring the ballots from the stationary box to the safe box, the relevant act, which indicated that 93 people received ballots, was signed. However, in the evening of the same day, the election commission published different data - 192 people. 

At PEC 2151 in St. Petersburg, while transferring ballots from a stationary box to a safe-box, Darya Teplova, a commission member with voting rights, found three stacks of ballots folded evenly; they could be seen with the naked eye. 

General statistics

Golos movement conducts a short-term observation in 51 regions, as well as in polling stations established abroad. Elections are monitored for compliance with universally recognized standards for free expression of will and are based on data received from the regions from participants and election organizers, observers and media representatives, through various channels, including the hotline 8 800 333-33-50, "Map of Violations", media, Internet, social networks and messengers. 

On the third day of voting on September 19 from 00:00 to 10:00 Moscow time the "Golos" movement received 247 appeals to the hotline and 240 messages to the "Map of Violations".

The top five regions in terms of the number of reports of possible violations on the third day of voting on September 19:

  1. Moscow - 41
  2. St.Petersburg - 27
  3. Moscow region - 26
  4. Bashkortostan - 25
  5. Krasnodar region - 10

The breakdown in terms of the number of reports of possible violations in the campaign period is currently as follows: 

  1. Moscow - 634
  2. Moscow region - 437
  3. St.Petersburg - 314
  4. Krasnodar region - 261
  5. Samara region - 196