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Statement20 September 2021, 11:02
Collage: Ksenia Telmanova

Main trends of the voting day

  • There was an obvious decrease in the level of openness and transparency of the electoral system. The three days of voting wears observers out, and by the end of the third day many observers are naturally tired, and their vigilance and reaction time are dulled. Three days of voting significantly increases the cost of observation and reduces the possibility of control. At the same time, the so-called «public control» given to the public chambers is used for manipulative purposes to create a fictitiously demonstrative product. A boisterous activity is simulated, it is said that a huge number of observers is trained and they are present at all the polling stations — but in fact the observers from the public chambers turned out to be the employees of the budget sphere or some administrative public structures, besides, they are often the members of United Russia. 
  • During these days of voting, election commissions in a number of regions are obstructing observers with a fierceness which has not been observed for at least the last five years. This includes expulsion from polling stations (including removal without a court order by police), threats to life and health, infliction of material damage and even attempts of violence by unidentified persons, indulged both by police and by members of election commissions: physical fights, blocking of cars, prevention of access to polling stations. The number of procedural violations, which do not allow to control the fairness of the elections, is also very high. These reports are accompanied by information about «ballot stuffing», entering of polling stations at night, and manipulation of ballots or commission documents at this time.
  • Failures in the remote electronic voting system created difficulties for a significant number of voters in exercising their active suffrage. For some reason, the system was once again unprepared to work on voting days.

Complexity of procedures

As the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation pointed out in the Decision of June 25, 2019 N 1575-O, in regulating electoral rights and the procedure for conducting elections, the legislator must show the necessary care «that the electoral procedures introduced by it were honest and transparent, prevented the possibility of falsification of the results of the electoral process, contributed to an objective and reliable reflection of the actual results of the electoral will of citizens.» The Constitutional Court also pointed out that only the consistent execution of the requirements established by law essentially leaves no room for inaccurate vote counting and incorrect reflection of them in the protocol on the results of voting. 

With the introduction of multi-day voting the possibilities for falsifications and other violations have been significantly expanded. In order to somehow compensate this effect, the legislators had to considerably complicate the regulatory norms and instructions. As a result, both members of election commissions and observers were not only physically exhausted by a three-day marathon, but in many cases mentally exhausted due to constant confusion in the new procedures. 

All this led to the fact that many commissions simply refused to carry out the procedures, which due to their lack of understanding often seemed meaningless to them. And the result of this was the impossibility to be convinced of the honesty of the voting outcomes even in those cases when the commissions had no malicious intent (not to mention those situations when there was such intent). All of this eventually led to totally unjustified conflicts at polling stations. 

Legal arbitrariness and increased aggression

Golos has not encountered so many reports of activities obstructing the work of observers and commission members in at least five years, not to mention the use of violence and threats. On September 19, from 0:00 to 20:00 Moscow time, Golos received 329 reports of violations of the rights of observers, members of commissions and mass media representatives, and in general, during the three days of voting 882 such reports were received from 54 regions. 

For example, in Tatarstan, two PEC 2822 members with a consultative vote (from Yabloko and candidate Gulnaz Ravilova) were removed from a polling station by force; the video recording was published by the Yabloko party. Later the candidate Gulnaz Ravilova was also removed from the polling station by force. At that moment a group of militants also prevented another candidate, Ruslan Zinatulin, from entering the polling station. A scuffle broke out at the polling station and candidates were beaten, the party reported.

Administrative violations continued at polling station 409 in Kazan as well, this time regarding PEC member Dmitry Demidov — police took him away from the polling station under the pretext of an administrative violation (earlier, police took two commissioners with a consultative vote away from the polling station, after which one of them could be heard shouting in the room). A lawyer was not allowed to see the detained Demidov.

Yabloko observer in Krasnodar region was rudely pushed out of the polling station by Igor Volikov, deputy chairman of PEC 2186. Before that, the latter refused to register the observer in the list of persons present at the polling station and demanded him to leave the premises.

At PEC 2026 in Obninsk, Moscow Oblast, the chairperson called the police to remove commission member Polina Alekseeva for allegedly giving an unauthentic signature to candidate Nikolai Ivanov on a referral. The police officers arrived and forbade her to take video recordings.

According to the Yabloko party headquarters, a proxy of candidate Artem Petukhov was removed from PEC 2186 at Lenina Village, Krasnodar Krai, with the use of brute force. The polling station was then closed, including to voters.

Yabloko also reported an attack on their candidate Gleb Tumanov in Moscow’s Pechatniki district.

The reason for removing observer Elena Semenova from polling station No. 4661 in Sochi was an urgent call for her to report to her workplace. The cafe next door, where Semenova worked, was inspected by Rospotrebnadzor and a local police officer. They referred to an anonymous call about a violation of anti-Covid-19 measures.

A member of PEC No. 2179 with consultative voting rights in Krasnodarskiy Krai said the commission, along with police officers, surrounded him, pushing him away from the ballot box. «What was going on with it for about 8-10 minutes — I can’t say. I suspect ballot stuffing,» he said.

A member of Moscow’s PEC No. 1617 with a consultative vote from the New People party was accused of «planting bugs» at the polling station. According to a report on the «Map of Violations,» he was obstructed in his work and threatened by police. He himself denies the charges.

In St. Petersburg, a court was attempting to suspend members of seven election commissions with both consultative and decisive voting rights, St. Petersburg Observers reported. At the time the report appeared, Frunzensky District Court had suspended five of the nine members.

PEC No. 836 in Moscow suspended Yabloko member with consultative voting rights — «due to his unauthorized absence from voting outside polling station premises,» said the party headquarters. Only a court may suspend a member of the commission.

In Sochi, a PEC member with consultative voting rights was suspended by the chairman after he refused to attend the procedure of voting at home. Earlier, suspecting manipulation with supplementary lists, respective commissioner had obtained the ability to issue ballots to voters on supplementary lists and refused to issue ballots to several people without local residency registration. «Immediately after my refusal, the chairman convened a meeting at which he raised the question of my removal, [which he] asked immediately answering himself unanimously; nobody else answered, no hands were raised, [he did not] let anyone speak up,» — said a member of the commission.

In Krasnoznamensk, Moscow region, an FSB representative demanded that a member of Moscow Regional Election Commission leave the polling station under the pretext of violating rules for visiting a closed administrative-territorial entity (CATO) — this happened after the commission member demanded to correct violations in the mobile voting registry.

There are also reports of obstruction from United Russia observer to another observer in Leninsky district of Novosibirsk — and precisely at the moment when a large group of people came into the polling station.

In Tver, a folder with documents was stolen from Artur Bavrin, member of the Territorial Election Commission (TEC) of Central district. It happened in the room of the Precinct Commission No. 949 while Bavrin was talking to police. Judging by the video, the file was stolen by a young man who had earlier introduced himself as a member of the regional election commission, Bavrin told Golos. Later, Bavrin also reported that he was under surveillance.

Sota correspondent Mikhail Zhulin and former Nizhny Novgorod City Duma candidate Natalia Resontova also reported being under surveillance: they saw the Patriot UAZ driving behind them when they went to the TEC to get their identifications as commission members with a consultative vote.

Vitaly Katsko, a New People candidate in Krasnodarskiy Krai, complained about constant calls from different numbers in auto-dial mode. Thereby the callers prevented the calls and coordination of election observation.

Polling station No. 1636 in Yuzhnoportovo district of Moscow worked with official documents in a separate room behind a closed door where observers had not been allowed.

In Moscow, unknown people blocked the car of Dozhd* correspondent Alexander Makarov and Yabloko representatives outside the polling station in Kotelniki. About ten people surrounded the car, preventing it from leaving, the Dozhd TV channel reported. Earlier, Yabloko representatives were threatened with physical violence at this polling station.

Throughout the day, there continued to be reports of voters arriving at the polling station and discovering that someone had already signed the lists under their names. For example, in Chelyabinsk Oblast at PEC No. 2164, unknown persons voted for an entire family, including its deceased member. 

«When my husband and I went to our polling station, we were told that we were not on the list. Even though we had been registered in this house for 21 years. We didn’t believe it, and when we started leafing through the book, we saw that opposite our names and the data of our relatives there were already signatures of someone else. None of us had voted before that time», said the voter.

In Togliatti, a voter who came to vote at polling station No. 6094 found that her name had already been signed in the voter’s list. In Krasnodar, a voter also found that his list line had been filled in with unknown passport data and an unknown signature. In the village of Soldato-Alexandrovskoye, Stavropolskiy Krai, unknown people signed for a voter and his wife (they also have all the) ballots. 

In Zvenigorod, Moscow Oblast, a member of the commission with consultative voting rights noticed that several signatures on applications for voting at home seemed to have been made by one hand. He memorized the address of one of the voters and went there. It turned out that the voter did not live at this address, and the commission did not go there. 

Aleksandr Boldygin, a member of St. Petersburg election commission No. 133 with consultative voting rights, said that a voter who came to the polling station noticed that he was voted for at home, although he did not do that. Similar reports came from Moscow and Kemerovo. 

In a previous review, we already pointed out that there were reports of major errors in the voter lists — many voters could not find themselves on them. For some reason, in some regions this problem is indeed quite acute in the current elections. And these regions often include those in which a large number of more serious issues is also present. For example, at PEC No. 28 in Balashikha (Moscow region), a whole house (2/10 Kudakovskogo St.) was not found in the voter registry. In Pyatigorsk, Stavropolskiy Krai, a voter discovered that a person unknown to him was recorded as residing in his apartment. And in St. Petersburg, a person who had died in 2018 was registered on the voter list. 

Issues with citizens’ exercise of active suffrage due to failures in remote electronic voting

Throughout the day on September 19, there were a large number of reports of glitches in the online voting system. Voters who applied for remote voting but were rejected were then unable to vote at regular polling stations as well.

Thus, in Nekrasovka, Moscow, a voter came to the polling station and complained that «he was refused to vote electronically» and at the PEC he was crossed out of the lists as having voted through the Remote Electronic Voting (REV) system. The chairman of the commission dissuaded the voter from filing a complaint «because this is proposed by an observer from ’Golos’ who cannot help you in any way; you would only waste your time.» 

One of the Moscow voters registered with REV could not vote while in Cherepovets: the page kept crashing or she would reach the ballot download stage and then get kicked off with a three-hour restriction for re-entering. 

Another voter reported that she opened the ballot on her computer, but did not vote, and as a result the attempt «expired» and she could no longer vote — the system would not let her. The REV and MosRU hotlines advised her to go to her polling station, but of course they refused to issue her the ballot there. Due to technical malfunctions the voter was deprived of her right to vote. 

Yabloko stated that hundreds of Muscovites were deprived of the right to vote. But Russian citizen Yulia Ilyinskaya, who lives in Israel, was able to vote twice (in 2020, she was able to vote three times during the vote on amending the Constitution). Ilyinskaya wrote about it on Facebook: «I managed to vote more than once again. The ’stop-duplicate’ system, designed to prevent the possibility of voting at a polling station and electronically at the same time, does not work abroad. This could be because the data of a Russian passport is entered into it (through Gosuslugi), but we vote using our international passports, so the passport numbers do not match.

Voters also complained that the possibility to re-vote was disabled in the remote electronic voting. When I clicked on the button, a message appeared saying that this function had been disabled by the CEC.

Combating Openness and Transparency in the Activities of Election Commissions

The law proclaims the principle of openness and publicity in the work of election commissions. This is indeed one of the key factors influencing public confidence in the results of elections. Unfortunately, for several election campaigns in a row already, the CEC of Russia has been moving further and further away from this principle, despite the frequently proclaimed increase in the «transparency» of the Russian vote. 

For example, in the last few days, the CEC encrypted the results of the last Duma elections, and now they cannot be copied. Analyst Sergei Shpilkin pointed out that the CEC has put a scrambler on the display of election results. A scrambler is a software or hardware device (algorithm) that performs a reversible transformation of a digital stream.

Shpilkin excerpted a table showing a numeric code used to tabulate the results of the last Primorye Duma election: «You see, there are letters instead of numbers on the page? If you try to copy the data from the page, instead of numbers there will also be these strange letters. I do not know how scared you have to be of your own citizens to do such things».

Earlier it became known that on 17 September on izbirkom. ru a restriction appeared. «[One gets] banned after 30 requests to the election results by the so-called fingerprint of users and by IP. That is, they show no more than 30 PEC protocols to one user,» Grigory Melkonyants, co-chairman of Golos, wrote in his telegram channel. 

Another method of hiding socially significant information was the restriction of voters’ access to video broadcasts from polling stations. After it was announced that live video broadcasts to the Internet would not be allowed, the CEC was promised that parties and candidates would in any case have access to video streams from polling stations and be able to freely conduct video observation from their accounts, with the ability to rewind video. With these promises, an active advertising campaign was launched on TV channels, stating how effectively the video observation was organized. However, according to reports from representatives of regional party branches, their accounts lacked the function of rewinding and watch videos retrospectively. Access to video was interrupted, the picture froze. The federal Yabloko party office reported that they have been having problems with recording screen transmissions, too (the party has previously published several videos of ballot stuffing).

In a number of regions, problems also arose with access to video observation at so-called Public Observation Centers (POC). For example, Ivanovskii POC introduced access coupons for two hours per observer. In Samara POC, time slots were introduced for 30 minutes, but not more than 5 slots per applicant to exercise the right to video observation. In the Kaliningrad POC, when performing video observation by viewing video broadcasts from polling stations on workstations’ plasma screens, there was a ban to copy video broadcasts to devices for recording and storing data, as well as copying images from these screens and/or screens on the walls to any other device, which allows to record photo or video images.

General statistics

«Golos» Movement conducts short-term observation in 51 regions, as well as in polling stations set up abroad. Election monitoring is conducted in accordance with universally recognized standards of free expression of will and is based on data received from the regions from participants and organizers of elections, observers, and representatives of the media through a variety of 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 as of 20:00 Moscow time Golos movement received 2,143 reports to the hotline (total call time amounted to 3 days 3 hours and 28 minutes) and 1,138 reports to the «Map of Violations» and other electronic channels.

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

  1. Moscow city — 232
  2. the city of St. Petersburg — 177
  3. Moscow Oblast — 142
  4. Krasnodarskiy Krai — 73
  5. Bashkortostan — 42

The distribution of leadership by the number of reports of possible violations in the campaign period as a whole is currently as follows: 

  1. Moscow city — 825
  2. Moscow Oblast — 555
  3. city of St. Petersburg — 465
  4. Krasnodarskiy Krai — 325
  5. Samara Oblast — 218

*recognized as a foreign agent

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