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ReportOur AssessmentRussian Federation17 March 2024, 14:33
Collage: Ksenia Telmanova

General overview

The Golos Movement has been monitoring the compliance of voting with the international and Russian standards of free expression of will; the monitoring is based on the data provided by voters, organizers of voting, observers and media representatives from the country’s regions through various channels, including the 8 800 500-54-62 hotline, the Map of Violations, mass media, the Internet, social media, and messengers.

The Golos Movement received 60 hotline calls and 206 messages sent via the Map of Violations and other digital communication channels on March 17 — referring to the second and early third voting days — as of 8:00 Moscow time.

In total, during the election period, the hotline has received 202 calls, and the Map of Violations and other digital channels have received 1,301 reports.

On March 16—17, the top five regions reporting alleged violations through the Map of Violations were:

  1. Moscow — 35
  2. Krasnodar Krai — 32
  3. St. Petersburg — 21
  4. Moscow Oblast — 18
  5. Samara Oblast — 15.

In total, during the election campaign, the regions reporting most to the Map of Violations were:

  1. Ryazan Oblast — 114
  2. Moscow — 109
  3. St. Petersburg — 104
  4. Krasnodar Krai — 97
  5. Moscow Oblast — 91.

Principal trends of the voting day(s)

Mobilizing voters: carrot and stick

Considering turnout distribution over time, it can be argued that the mass coercion of voters to vote predominantly occurred on the first voting day, on a working Friday of March 15. The evidence is the data from the Remote Electronic Voting: the share of all submitted Remote Electronic Voting ballots increased from 60% to 88% by the end of March 16.

Sporadic coercion reports continue to appear, including in the Golos chronicle. For example, the teaching staff at the Ryazan Agricultural Academy complained that they were forced to vote and report voting. The same was ordered to the formal student group leaders at the Institute of Udmurt Philology, Finno-Ugric Studies and Journalism of the Udmurt State University. Both students and professors continued to be forced to vote at the Lipetsk State Pedagogical University, where Precinct Election Commission (PEC) 2320 is located. However, various motivational tools came to the fore on the second and third voting days.

First, there are ubiquitous large-scale quizzes and competitions with large prizes drawn on every voting day. At that, this motivation technology is de facto unified: incentives are placed right in the PEC buildings thus directly nudging voters to vote and enabling turnout monitoring. They also use their own local tricks. For example, the Oryol City Administration lures students with the tickets to a football match and souvenirs: to get them, one just needs to show a student ID and vote. Voters are offered snacks and shots of some transparent liquid in Prokopyevsk (Kemerovo Oblast).

Turnout anomalies and discrepancies

By late March 15, it became known about a discrepancy of almost two million votes between the data of the Vybory (Elections) State Automated System and the official figures disclosed by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). A striking example of manipulating voter turnout was TEC 23 in St. Petersburg, where voter turnout in PECs 14 and 27 was almost identical: the figures were the same to a tenth of a percent there. Moreover, on Saturday, mass media, citing the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, informed that 859 PECs either did not report turnout figures for the first voting day or reported complete voters’ absenteeism. Most of the cases were in Moscow (145), St. Petersburg (101), and the Moscow Oblast (49).

Initial turnout analysis provides striking findings, too. An unnaturally similar turnout was observed at dozens of neighboring polling stations in several regions, which usually indicates falsified data. Indicatively, this occurs in the highest turnout regions, and on the contrary, observers have thought the lowest of these regions, including Ingushetia, Tuva, Belgorod and Kemerovo Oblasts.

Turnout discrepancies and anomalies are also reported from the field directly. For example, at PEC 2385 in Podolsk (Moscow Oblast), observers found large measurement discrepancies in the Ballot Processing Complex between the data reported at the closing of the polling station and the data reported at the opening of the polling station on March 16. In Ivanteevka (Moscow suburbs), the controller, who recorded the turnout in real time, revealed a significant gap between her count and the Ballot Processing Complex counter. In Krasnodar, at PEC 6416, observers found a discrepancy between the number of voters according to the Vybory (Elections) State Automated System and the number of ballots issued to voters there.

An odious case occurred in Odintsovo (Moscow Oblast), where PEC 1950 provided home voting for 800 voters in seven hours. At the same time, polling station observers were denied access to the Absentee Ballot Register. Members of PEC 5102 in the Tikhoretsky District (Krasnodar Krai) visited 150 people in 2.5 hours.

Signs of alleged falsifications and first ballot box stuffing cases

The first observer reported violations compromising ballot safety in Mytishchi on the evening of March 15. Those responsible tried to use safe bags without an indicator tape and a unique serial number at PECs 1687, 3859 and 1694. This was followed by the incident in the Krasnoselsky District of St. Petersburg, where the chairperson of PEC 2332 tore off a protective red tape from a safe bag while packing ballots.

An observer at PEC 2055 in Krasnodar discovered that the photo of the safe storing the safe bags with the previous day's ballots differed from its photo shot in the morning of the second voting day. Once reported, police officers arrived at the scene and searched the observer. However, the observers of the above-mentioned PEC 2332 learned that at night the members of this Precinct Election Commission had transferred the ballots from the previously used safe bag to another safe bag, which they refused to show. The chairperson of PEC 2057 in the Chertanovo District (Moscow) did not satisfy the observers’ request to let them inspect the safe bags with the ballots to see their unique serial numbers. Moreover, PECs 1673 and 1734 in Mytishchi used unidentified bags.

An observer of PEC 2325 in Krasnodar reported ballot box stuffing to the Map of Violations on the evening of March 16. At the same time, the PEC members tried to prevent filming of the crime. A video showing a stack of ballots in a stationary box (which may indicate alleged stuffing) was taken at PEC 2341. Observers at PEC 1462 in St. Petersburg prevented the planned stuffing of a pre-prepared pack of falsified ballots by the PEC members after the voting ended. As a result, the PEC chairperson and the PEC secretary simply left the polling station, leaving the ballots guarded by police officers.

Violence at precinct electoral commissions and destruction of ballots

In Russia, following the results of the first day of voting, at least 14 criminal cases were opened under the article on “Obstructing election commissions.” Voters set fire at PECs using Molotov cocktails and filled ballot boxes with brilliant green, paint, and ink. This happened in Moscow, in the Voronezh, Kurgan, Volgograd and Rostov Oblasts, in St. Petersburg, Veliky Novgorod, Ivanovo, in the Krasnodar and Krasnoyarsk territories, in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, and in Karachay-Cherkessia.

Despite measures taken to tighten security controls, including the deployment of vigilantes with unclear status and mandate, serious incidents occurred at polling stations across the country again. In addition to another attempt to fill a stationary ballot box with brilliant green in Gymnasium 13 in Yekaterinburg and a similar intention in the village of Maima in the Altai Republic, a local resident detonated a firecracker at a polling station in Tobolsk (Tyumen Oblast). An unidentified person sprayed some caustic gas in the PEC 949 premises in the Krasnogvardeysky District of St. Petersburg. All PEC members and voters were evacuated from PEC 418 in Vladimir due to a mining threat. A female attacker filled a ballot box with brilliant green at PEC 428 in Borisoglebsk (Voronezh Oblast).

Law enforcement agencies report that the offenders have been detained, placed under arrest and prosecuted under Article 141 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Obstructing the exercise of electoral rights or the operations of election commissions”). It should be noted that the severity of the response of law enforcement agencies this time differs significantly from the established practice of investigating and suppressing offenses provided for by this criminal article. Most often, criminal cases used to be initiated against persons who had committed falsifications or exerted pressure on voters using their official position. Investigations almost never led to the detention of suspects, and the sentences were very lenient: often people were not even criminally punished, getting off with a court fine. There were similar crimes in 2020. In one case, a voter tried to set fire to a polling station as a protest; the accused pleaded guilty, but avoided criminal punishment by getting off with a court fine. In another case, voters attacked PEC members, took away their equipment and information materials, and damaged their voting equipment. The court showed leniency to them by dismissing the criminal case and releasing them from criminal liability: each offender was fined 50 thousand rubles.

Voters also face law enforcer violence at polling stations. For example, voter Konstantin Kirillov was arrested at a polling station in the Serebryanka microdistrict in Pushkin (near Moscow) and detained for three days. The reason was some slogan he had written on his ballot. A voter wrote “boycott” in a signature box on the Voter List and tried to take his ballot away from PEC 1962 in Odintsovo (Moscow Oblast). The PEC members called the police, and the voter was detained and taken to the police station. It has also been reported that a voter was detained because of an inscription on the ballot in Podolsk (near Moscow). The police detained a young man for the same reason at PEC 2757 in Ramenki (Moscow).

Obstructing public scrutiny of elections

There were practically no independent public controllers at polling stations on the second voting day, just like on the first voting day. At the same time, it became known by noon that election commissions had observers neither from candidate Vladimir Putin nor from the Civic Chamber in some regions (e.g., in the Kurgan Oblast). Thus, the system of electoral bodies was completely sealed from any outside view despite the concluded standard multilateral observation agreements, as well as the engagement of huge human resources.

At the same time, various pressures and obstructions of observers and individual PEC members with a casting vote (PEC voting members) continue.

In St. Petersburg, Territorial Election Commissions (TECs) prohibit PEC voting members to take pictures and videos inside polling stations. An observer faced the same obstruction at PEC 1232 in Voronezh.

The TEC in Goryachiy Klyuch (Krasnodar Krai) decided that some election committee members had to be at their workplace from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. As a result, the Goryachiy Klyuch City Court prematurely terminated the powers of Valentina Shostak, a TEC member with a casting vote delegated by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF).

In Moscow, the chairperson of PEC 1274 demanded a caution to be issued to a PEC member for helping a voter file a complaint on the PEC’s operations. In Novosibirsk, a CPRF observer was denied access to the Voter List at PEC 2002, which resulted in a complaint filed with the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation. Observers at PEC 347 in Dolgoprudny (near Moscow) reported an intent and appeal of the PEC chairperson to the court demanding dismissal of a PEC member. In St. Petersburg, the chairperson of PEC 179 also filed a lawsuit demanding dismissal of Vladimir Smirnov, a PEC voting member delegated by the Yabloko party. Vladimir Smirnov says that from the very beginning of the presidential campaign, his PEC colleagues obstructed his work: they would not let him review the documents related to the electoral process and did not allow him to engage in home voting. As a result, it became known on the morning of March 17 that the court did not suspend the PEC member.

Ksenia Kozhevnikova, CPRF observer, was detained at PEC 1 in Moscow. The reason was her refusal to obey the illegal demand of the PEC chairperson who forbade her to move around the polling station. The observer is charged with obstructing the election commission. An observer at PEC 1510 in St. Petersburg was suspended according to the List of Observers whose powers were terminated by presidential candidate proxy Nikolai Kharitonov. An observer was removed from the polling station without a court decision as reported from Vostochny Degunino (Moscow). At the same time, the police inspected her home in search of prohibited symbols.

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