30 May 2020
Grigory Melkonyants, chair of the Golos voters’ rights movement
Judging by recent publications of the draft, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has prepared revolutionary changes to the already anti-democratic procedure for holding Russia-wide votes.
Remember what has already been established: there are to be no public or party observers, everyone is appointed by state organisations. Indicators which enable the appraisal of the reliability of voting results are excluded from the protocols. Early and ‘home-based’ voting, the excessive use of which the CEC itself previously recognised as a sign of electoral dysfunction, has significantly grown. Furthermore, a new institution has been introduced, that previously did not exist in Russian legislation: ‘early home-based voting.’ This has substantially reduced the openness of counting procedures.
And now, on the new ruse.
1. The issuing of ballots without evidence of passport data
It has been proposed not to write down the passport data of voters when issuing ballot papers, as is always done in elections and referenda. That is, they were planning to list passport data just two months ago, when the procedure was adopted, and now they have changed their minds. There won’t be anything there aside from the voter’s signature. Given that everyone will be wearing facemasks, this is a direct route to ‘carousel’ or multiple votes, doctoring and ballot stuffing.
2. Six days of early off-site voting outside
It has been proposed that for the six days leading up to the vote, voting may be organised in the areas around buildings, areas of common use and in other places. This is a completely uncontrolled procedure, the reliable conduct of which will be impossible to check without investigation. It’s obvious that in the majority of cases, it will be conducted without the participation of observers.
3. Illegitimate ‘home-based’ votes
It may be possible to request a ‘home-based’ vote without providing adequate justification. What’s more, if a request for a ‘home-based’ vote is conferred with the assistance of another person, the Commission will no longer list the name and address of the applicant. This means that the lists of ‘home-voters’ will be inflated by all possible artificial means.
4. Voters, members of the commissions, and observers are consumable material
If we study the recommendations of the Russian Consumer Rights’ Monitor, as agreed by the CEC, it would appear that the voting will take place in the same conditions as during war time. Why is this?
Lowering the quality of voting:
- booths for secret voting without any curtains
- citizens are advised to remove their protective masks only briefly while presenting their passports, which is not to be handed to the commission member, but is shown at a distance
- disinfection of pens after each vote is cast. This will lead to the formation of crowds at polling stations at times of high turnout
- every hour during the commission’s work there will be a technical break for the disinfection of the premises, furniture and equipment. During this time, the safety of ballots, voter lists and other documents will be ensured by the chair of the commission. This is a direct path to irregularities.
Evidence of the danger of conducting the election:
- schedule for voting of buildings at certain days and times
- the organization of outdoor spaces for voting in army tents, under awnings and marquees at building entrances which have traditionally housed voting stations
- the taking of temperatures of voters as they enter these outdoor spaces
- the isolation of voters with high temperatures until an ambulance arrives
- the swift replacement of commission members and observers from public chambers by new members in the event of a worsening of their health
- plans for movements of voters to and from polling places to avoid queues and crowding
- stations for disinfecting hands and distributing single-use masks and gloves
- water breaks for commission members every 15 minutes
- after the organization of voting by citizens under quarantine, commission members must undergo enhanced disinfection measures in separate locations
So where does that leave us?
Firstly, knowing our Russian realities, I do not believe that these and many other protective measures, indicated in the recommendations, will really be carried out. So, should we expect another wave of the epidemic?
Secondly, the opaque procedure of conducting the election, along with the measures to combat the epidemic provides a framework for widespread fraud, and the CEC cannot be unaware of this.
And thirdly – it’s a big question – will commission members go out to the polls in such a scenario?
Why do we need all-Russian elections OF THIS KIND?