At-Home Voting In Russia Opens Another Door To Fraud, Evidence Suggests

A woman casts her ballot at her home during early voting in the Tyumen region, over 2,000 kilometers northeast of Moscow.  

In addition to the mass mobilization of state-sector workers, as well as strong indications of ballot-box stuffing and so-called carousel voting — when a single person cast ballots at several stations — Russian monitors say that home voting is also likely being used to skew the results of the voting for the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house, and local legislatures and posts.

A video shot at polling station 2808 in the Krasnodar region settlement of Kushchyovskaya showed a mobile ballot box that had been brought back by election officials from a home-voting trip. The video seems to show stacks of ballot papers folded one inside another and stuffed into the box. The election monitor reported that there was no register of at-home voters at the polling station.

At polling station 1272 in Moscow, Communist Duma deputy and election monitor Valery Rashkin was able to check the register of at-home voters. In a Twitter post, he said that he phoned the numbers of the voters as listed in the register. The result: Thirteen people told him they had not requested at-home voting, he said while 42 of the telephone numbers either did not exist or belonged to commercial organizations.

In Kemerovo, regional election commission member Gerda Gorskaya told RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities that she observed many irregularities when accompanying an at-home voting team from polling station 353. She said that few of the people the team visited had requested at-home voting. In some cases, election workers coached voters on whom to vote for, while in other cases they reportedly accepted ballots that had already been filled out without checking the identities of the voters.

"You can see a pattern in all these stories that none of these people wanted to vote from home," Gorskaya said. "I submitted a complaint asking that all those ballots be disqualified. But in the evening, the chairwoman of the election commission rejected the complaint…even though all the violations in my complaint had been confirmed by other members of the election commission who were with me at the polling station."

Yabloko Party election monitor Svetlana Marina shared with RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service audio of an at-home voting visit by workers from polling station 470 to an elderly woman in the settlement of Veresniki near the city of Kirov. In the audio, the voter appears to have no idea what is going on and when asked for whom she would like to vote, she answers: "I don’t know any of them." The polling station worker then suggests that she vote for the ruling United Russia party and helps her fill out her ballot.

In Moscow, Oleg Stepanov, a former head of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s Moscow office, reported that at polling station 1863 he found some 400 requests for at-home voting that were missing key information including names and telephone numbers. In many cases on the list, the purported requests came from groups of four people living in one apartment, with all the apartments in a building apparently housing one such group, and all of the people claiming that they needed to vote from home "because of health issues."

Regional lawmaker Mikhail Matveyev reported similar irregularities with the at-home voting list at polling station 3019 in the Volga River city of Samara, adding that the Investigative Committee was looking into the matter there. Matveyev said he believed the requests for at-home voting had been filled in by a single person.

Communist Party Duma candidate Aleksandr Andreyev claimed that officials from polling station 1713 in Cheboksary, capital of the Chuvashia region, were simply stopping random passersby and urging them to cast their ballots under the at-home voting procedure.

Andreyev told RFE/RL that he asked for a copy of the at-home voting register at the polling station. After he was given the document with 20 names on it, he requested to see the applications for at-home voting. But the head of the polling station took his copy of the register and gave him another one that did not say how many requests had been filed.

"That is, the head of the polling station tried to give me a fake document, and the falsification happened right in front of me," he said. "When I asked the official to give me the original copy, he tore it up and stuffed it in his pocket. Then he began to eat the pieces, right in front of our camera and in the presence of members of the election commission."

The September 17-19 elections are a test for the long-dominant but increasingly unpopular United Russia party, one of President Vladimir Putin’s main levers of power. Analysts say the Kremlin’s main goal is for United Russia to maintain its constitutional two-thirds majority in the 450-seat Duma.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities and RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service

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