FINAL STATEMENT No. 2.2: Association “GOLOS” on findings of short term observation of the Election Day of April 26, 2009, in the city of Sochi

02 мая 2009 г.

FINAL STATEMENT No. 2.2: Association “GOLOS” on findings of short term observation of the Election Day of April 26, 2009, in the city of Sochi

This is a third statement prepared by“GOLOS” Association members on Election Day findings at the mayoral elections in the city of Sochi, scheduled for April 26, 2009. In the course of elections the Association issued two statements and two press releases, available at www.golos.org.

The Association of Non-Profit Organizations “In Defense of Voters’ Rights «GOLOS»“conducts long-term and short-term monitoring of the electoral process. This monitoring is carried out by long-term observers, correspondents of Grazhdanskiy GOLOS newspaper, and the Association’s activists. The Association receives information both from mass media and from expert interviews with representatives of political parties, NGO leaders, elections commissions members, and from ordinary citizens reporting violations in the course of campaigns to the Association’s representatives and via a “hot line” (phone number 8 800 333 3350). During Sochi elections GOLOS received 42 calls regarding possible irregularities.

As an organization guided in its work by election monitoring standards accepted throughout the world, GOLOS Association strictly observes political neutrality as one of the main conditions of independent and objective election monitoring. GOLOS takes all possible measures in order to ensure that all its employees and activists observe the said principles.

In its electoral campaigns monitoring, GOLOS is guided by general and universal international electoral standards (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948; the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 6, 1966 and took force on March 23, 1976; the Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on March 26, 1994) as well as by regional international electoral standards and by provisions of the Russian legislation.

When monitoring the electoral process, among other things the organization focuses on: 1) respect for citizens’ electoral rights and compliance with the electoral procedures; 2) the elections commissions’ activities; 3) use of the administrative resource during the electoral campaign; 4) equal opportunities for all candidates; 5) developments on the Election Day.

Early voting

Early voting was widely used in the city of Sochi. A number of candidates claimed that voters were forced to take participate. The Association notes that the number of voters that took part in early balloting is higher than the number of those voting early in the last year’s elections. As of 5:45 pm of April 26, the turnout number was estimated as 127 404 voters, including the 30 965 voters that took part in early voting, thus in percentage the E-day turnout was 43.45% and the percentage of early voters was 24.31%.

It means that every fourth citizen taking part in elections voted early. In addition, 15 237 people or 11.95% took part in voting outside of polling premises (or at home). Thus, 46 202 people out of 127 404, or 36.25 % of voters voted at home.

Part 6. article 52 of the Law of Krasnodarskiy krai (Krasnodar region) “About municipal elections in Krasnodarskiy krai" provides, “if the number of early voters is more than one percent out of number of voters included in the polling station’s voter list (but not less than 10 voters), on the reverse side of the electoral ballots taken out of the envelopes of early voters, the stamp of the precinct election commission should be put right after the ballots are drawn out of envelopes”. The correspondents of the newspaper Grazhdanskiy golos did not report any irregularities in this regard.

Also, part 16, article 55 of this Law provides following, “If the number of early voters … is more than one percent out of number of voters, registered in the list of voters… the territorial election commission is obliged, upon request of any member of the electoral commission, to conduct separate vote counting of election ballots, which have stamp of the district electoral commission on the reverse side”.

We found out that the campaign offices of a number of candidates gave order and samples of documents to their observers with written requests to hold “separate” vote counting on the basis of part 16, article 55. The correspondents noted that not all representatives of territorial commissions knew about this regulation and the obligation to hold separate vote counting, which could lead to conflicts at the polling stations (PS).

On April 26 the municipal election commission sent out to territorial election commissions a letter with excerpt of the law requiring that results of early voting are tabulated separately in case respective request is received form election commission member or observer. The results of such separate vote count should be registered in a written Act. Grazhdanskiy golos correspondents note that such “separate” vote count was not requested at all polling stations.

However, GOLOS representatives registered some cases, when observer’s request to do “separate” counting was refused, for example at precinct election commission (PEC) No. 46–37. Nevertheless, for example, at the polling station No. 45–16 ballots from voting outside of the polling station premises were counted separately as well.

Availability and visibility of polling stations

Representatives of “GOLOS” Association note that number of polling sites are located in areas that are hard to reach or difficult to find. Such warnings were received from correspondents at PECs No. 46–13, 45–09, 44–18, 44–16, 44–24, 46–30, 43–18, 43–14, 43–04, 43–62, 46–37, 45–10, 44–37, 43–38, 45–09. For example, correspondent recorded indignation of citizens regarding the fact that at polling station No. 43–14 voters had difficulties accessing it. Thus, the route to the site was open only through park “Yuznie Kyltiri”, entrance to which costs 100 rubles. Observers from candidates Pakhomov and Dzagania stated that hall of polling station № 46–14 was too small and ill-fitted (un-adapted).

GOLOS representatives also recorded absence of sample filled out ballots at polling stations No. 45–13, 45–14, 45–33, 45–32, 45–28, 45–26, 45–20, 45–18, 45–16, 46–12, 46–17, 45–08, 45–09, 45–15, 45–31, 45–29, 45–27, 45–25, 45–21, 45–19, 45–17, 44–14, 44–18, 44–16, 44–27, 44–25, 44–24, 44–28, 44–30, 44–32, 44–38, 44–42, 43–27, 46–35, 46–36, 46–37, 46–39, 46–42, 46–44, 45–12, 46–60, 46–61, 46–58, 45–10, 46–62, 46–11, 46–57, 46–53, 43–36, 45–08, 45–09, 45–15, 45–31, 45–29, 45–27, 45–25, 45–21, 45–19, 45–17. Such facts violate art. 49 paragraph 7 of Krasnodar region’s Law on Municipal elections that provides for the following, “At information board there should be samples of filled ballots without candidates’ names, registered in this district, nor should be specified name of electoral blocks that take part in these elections. The samples should include all possible options how ballot can be filled out.” Grazhdanskiy golos correspondents also received information that at polling sites No. 45–28, 43–34, 43–27, 44–29, 44–33 there was no information about candidates’ income and property. Article 49 part D paragraph 3 of Krasnodar regions’ Law on Municipal elections obliges to disclose such information at polling sites.

At a number of polling sites the actions of commissioners were difficult to observe. For instance, at polling station No. 46–22 the commission’s members stayed in one room while the voting boxes were located in another one. Due to absence of conditions for proper observation, the work of PEC 46–35 members cannot be considered transparent.

Procedure of opening the polling stations

A number of polling sites were opened with a delay. For instance polling stations No. 44–11, 43–10, 43–17 were opened for voting after 8 am.

GOLOS also recorded a violation at polling site No. 46–42, where four envelopes containing ballots of early voters had only one signature of PEC member. This constitutes a violation of art. 52 paragraph 3 of Krasnodar Law on Municipal elections, according to which “a ballot, filled out by an early voter, is to be put into an envelope that has to be sealed. At sealing line there should be signatures of two members of commission that organizes elections, of subordinate territorial election commission or of PEC with a deciding vote, as well as members of election commission with consultative vote, observers (upon their will). These signatures are to be stamped by the relevant election commission, and verified by the signature of the voter which voted early”.

The voting procedure at the polling stations

During the voting day at a number of polling stations correspondents, in breach of federal laws “On basic guarantees…” and “On mass media…”, were denied access to open information at PECs No.45–09, 43–15, 46–29, 43–22, 44–18, 43–08. For example, at PEC No. 43–15 correspondents’ request for information about the number of voters included in the list and information about number of received ballots was turned down.

We would like to note that election commissions were very creative in making up excuses for not providing information to media representatives. For example, commissioners asked for accreditation in advance, stated that media representatives did not have a right to collect information or that picture taking was not allowed on the premises of the polling station, and that only selected media representatives were allowed to be present at the polling stations, etc.

There were registered cases, when lists of voters were not stitched together (for photos see attachment). For example, at PECs No. 45–13, 43–22, 43–24, 44–14, 46–37, 44–18, 44–16, 44–25, 46–24, 44–44, 43–62, 43–08, 46–35, 46–43, 46–52.

Also, there was a registered case when at PEC No. 43–18 the stamp of PEC and chairperson’s signature were missing from the voter lists. GOLOS also received information about cases when PECs refused to accept official complaint letters from observers (e.g. PECs No. 4407, 4415, 4423).

At PEC No. 43–17 the voters, who voted in early voting were not marked in the voter list.

At PECs No. 45–03, 45–04 observers found out that some citizens, who did not take part in early voting, were marked as if they did.

At PECs No. 45–04, 46–01 observers registered a fact when one voter was given three ballots. At PEC No. 46–02 – two ballots.

Denial of access to polling stations to media representatives

During the day there were cases when correspondents of Grazhdanskiy golos were denied access to polling stations. Such as, at PECs No. 44–18, 45–09, 44–20, 44–40, 45–10. These facts constitute a violation of the part 4 article 7 of the Law of Krasnodar region on Municipal elections. Other difficulties with accessing polling sites were solved in the course of correspondents’ work. Also, there was an incident when observer was asked to leave the premises of PEC No. 46–08.

Voting outside of the polling station’s premises (voting “at home”)

During the E-day GOLOS noted several violations of the voting outside of the polling station’s premises procedure. Observers informed the correspondents that at PECs No. 46–04, н6–47 the voting “at home” was organized based on the list that included the deceased and those voters which never requested such procedure.

The register of applications and requests for voting “at home” were not kept in due order at PECs No. 45–13, 45–20, 45–18, 46–20, 46–19, 46–13, 43–17, 43–15, 46–35, 46–36, 46–37, 46–39, 46–43, 46–42, 46–44, 46–40, 46–41, 44–43, 46–03.

We shall note that such registers (required by the law) in some cases were substituted by lists or records in notepads, constituted from data provided by social services. Therefore we can state that access to confidential information of social services allowed to include citizen in the lists for voting outside of PEC premises without their consent. For example, at PEC No. 43–32 GOLOS registered two cases when voters were not aware that they were included in the register for voting “at home”.

Election commissions at the number of polling stations did not inform the observers about voting outside of the voting premises, however, the law obliges to announce organization of such voting not later than 30 minutes prior to the PEC members’ departure. For example, such situation occurred at PEC No. 46–51. At the same PS register for voting at home increased from 20 to 170 people during 1.5 hour, and all those included on the list supposedly voted.

There were cases when observers requested, but were denied possibility to observe voting outside of PS premises with an excuse that there was not enough room in the car, which is against the part 11, article 66 of the Federal Law “On basic guarantees…” The absence of observers during voting “at home” allows doubting whether such voting took place in reality and that citizens voted voluntary. For example, candidate’s Niemtsov observers were denied ability to witness voting “at home” at PECs No. 46–60, 46–21.

There were cases when members of the commission made up the register of those voting “at home” in rooms outside of PS premises. This did not allow the observers to witness that citizens were voluntarily included in the register and that the lists were genuine (PECs No. 46–18, 46–12, 46–16).

There was a registered case when on PEC No. 43–17 the voter, who was not included in the register for voting outside of PS, was still allowed to vote.

GOLOS also registered a case when the register for home voting was missing from the polling station, as it was taken for voting “at home”. As a result, the Chairmen of PECs No. 45–25, 44–43, 45–19 were unable to provide observers with the number of voters included in the register. The absence of the register caused difficulties for citizens that wanted to submit applications for voting outside of PS premises in fulfillment of the law.

Legal competence of precinct and territorial election commissions’ chairmen and members

Correspondents of Grazhdansky golos newspaper witnessed low competence of election commissioners at most visited polling sites. GOLOS notes that limited knowledge of electoral legislature lead to violation of election law, citizens’ and observers’ rights. For example, cases of denying access to observers, removing observers from PS premises upon oral instructions without any written collective decision of the commission, etc.

Although the basic principles of the elections are openness and publicity, precinct election commissions read the law in a way which allows excusing their non-transparent and “confidential” actions. We should note that in most cases commission chairmen were not ready for ethical and equitable dialogue with observers.

Specialised polling station

Polling station No. 43–62 was specifically opened, as it was stated by the chairman of municipal election commission, in response to numerous requests from citizens that obtained registration in the city of Sochi but were living in Abkhazia. Mass media and candidates made a fuss around this polling site. The polling station itself was located in a bus. There was no voter list, and it was suggested that the polling station works as voters turn on to cast votes. The electoral commission was given 2000 voting ballots. However, only four people took part in voting at this PS (for photos see attachment).

It is questionable why those “many citizens” that asked for such polling station did not show up to cast their votes.

Procedure of vote counting

Some irregularities were registered in the course of vote tabulation. For example, at the PEC No. 46–54 during vote counting the marks on the ballots were not announced, ballots were not counted by moving them from one pile to another.

At PEC No. 45–16 neither the data from voter lists nor the results of unused ballots counting were announced.

At the PEC No. 46–54 the ballots taken out of the mobile voting boxes were not counted and marks on the ballots were not announced in the process of sorting. The ballots in sorted piles were not counted in a proper way – by moving them from on pile to another, at PECs No. 46–54, 44–41.

At the PEC No. 43–46 there were numerous violations of the vote counting procedure: violations of the order of operations, not filling out the enlarged form of protocol, no proper sorting and counting of ballots.

In a number of stations the control numbers did not converge right away. For example, at PECs No. 46–32 and 45–17.

We also registered cases when the data received after each stage of counting was not entered in an enlarged form of the protocol. For example, this took place at PECs No. 45–16, 46–19, 43–16, 44–28, 43–29, 46–39, 46–62, 46–54, 43–38, 45–17.

At PEC No. 46–24 it took the commissioners two hours (from 9 till 11 pm) to certify copies of protocols. With that the observers were asked to leave the commission’s premises since, as it was claimed, their presence caused “difficulties” in the work of PEC. After an official complaint observers were brought back into the premises.

In violation of the law at the PEC No. 46–62 the correspondents were not provided with copy of protocol with the results of voting.

Results’ tabulation at the territorial election commissions (TECs)

From the perspective of fulfillment of electoral procedures the summation of results at the TEC level has a great significance. In the course of monitoring, GOLOS correspondents registered a gross violation of transferring the PEC protocols to TEC of Khost district. Thus, the chairmen of PECs, upon their arrival to submit the protocols, immediately went to the third floor of the building where TEC was located, straight to the administration’s offices, without stopping either by the enlarged from of the consolidated data chart or the TEC premises. The procedure of protocols’ submission was violated at the TEC of Adler district as well.

Thus, GOLOS representatives registered facts (for photographs see attachment) when PEC chairpersons arrived to the Khost TEC building with empty protocol forms, however, signed by all PEC members. The protocols were intended to be filled out upon their arrival (PECs No. 45–29, 45–27, 45–07, 45–24, 45–15). Only after the fact of filling out PEC protocols in the office of the administration was taken on camera and complaints made, the chairman of the TEC started to ask all PEC chairpersons to fill out the enlarged chart with consolidated data. After that, PEC representatives started to fill out the enlarged chart with the data from their “notes”. Correspondents then noted that the data in the enlarged forms of charter should come only from fully and properly filled out PEC protocols. The Chairperson of the TEC acknowledged that this was the procedure provided by law, and after this notice many representatives of PECs started to leave the premises of TEC, which proved that some of them did not have filled our PEC protocols on hand.

GOLOS notes the easiness with which the PEC members neglected the law by signing empty protocol forms, which demonstrated routine usage of such approaches, and provided us with the grounds for questioning the accuracy of data entered in PEC protocols.

Conclusions

Association “GOLOS” is concerned with the extremely high percentage of early voters. The latest mayoral elections in Sochi demonstrated the growing tendency of the use of administrative pressure on electorate, significant increase in early voting. The high percentage of early voters is the direct indication of such influence, and registered cases of voters’ bussing are indication of violation of electoral legislation.

Legislature of the Russian Federation provides election commissions with enough authority to prevent such practices during preparation and organization of early voting. For example, electoral commissions have a right to verify the authenticity of reasons for early voting and voting outside of the PS, even by means of requesting the respective documents. We did not register a single case when commissions used such opportunity.

In spite of the fact that most of the observers lacked professional preparation, we would like to note that they were very active, even more active than at the recent regional and federal elections.

Also, GOLOS would like to point out constructive cooperation with municipal election commission and that territorial election commissions promptly reacted to registered facts of electoral legislation violation.

“GOLOS” Association would like to draw attention to the low professional competence of the members of precinct and territorial election commissions.

Democracy is about following the procedure. It is about strict observation of the law. Ignoring legal regulations by election commissions’ members, recorded facts of numerous violations of E-Day procedures provided by the law, demonstrate either lack of professionalism of the commissioners or even deliberate distortion/violation of the procedures. This decreases credibility of voting and of elections in general.