Yaroslavl. Press Release # 1
More than 60 `Civic Voice` correspondents are monitoring compliance with voting and counting procedures at polling stations and the tabulation of results at higher election commissions for the second round of Yaroslavl’s mayoral elections. `Civic voice` was established by GOLOS Association, NGO for the protection of voters’ rights.
As an organization guided in its work by internationally prescribed standards for election observation, GOLOS Association strictly adheres to political neutrality as a fundamental element of independent and objective monitoring. Throughout the course of the electoral campaign, GOLOS is guided by universally accepted international electoral standards, as well as by regional electoral standards and the norms established by Russian electoral law.
`Civic Voice` correspondents have visited more than 240 Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs) in Yaroslavl today.
On a good note, there were not many problems with polling stations refusing to admit media representatives. Such problems arose in only two PECs, numbers 27 and 220. Furthermore, observers and voters positively evaluated the presence of translucent ballot boxes, and expressed the belief that this change fosters confidence in electoral procedure.
GOLOS Association notes several issues based on the observation data of its observers. The placement and free movement of observers, as well as their rights to record their findings via photo and video technology, were constrained in more than 3% of polling stations. Observers had not been given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with voter lists by the opening of the polling stations in 6% of PECs, including PECs # 90 and 126. Voting premises were not conducive to proper observation in 10% of PECs. Issues with the mobile voting process have been reported in more than 12% of PECs, including PECs # 64, 126, 167, and 192. There is evidence of four PECs having violated ballot issuance procedures, including PECs # 64, 126, 167, and 192.
Observers for both of the candidates (Urlashov and Yakshev) were present in almost all polling stations. Observers representing the Communist Party, Yabloko, GOLOS Association, Rosvybory, Democratic Choice, Solidarity, an organization of lawyers, Citizen Observer, and representatives of regional, federal, and foreign media were present in polling stations as well.
Off-premises or “at home” voting
At a number of polling stations, incorrectly executed rosters were identified for “at home” voting, including PECs # 108, 109, 238, etc.
The commissions frequently relied on lists guided by the following factors:
- Condensed Territorial Election Commissions (TECs)
- Provided to employees of social welfare bodies
- Drawn up by PEC members during period of invitations to the elections
- Consisted of “at home” voters as listed for the 4 March elections
At PEC # 124 observers identified a list that was not on the standard “at home” form issued by the TEC, but which rather contained empty columns headed with the initials «У» and «Я," the first letters of each of the candidates’ names.
Bribery of voters
One of the candidates established contracts en masse with voters during a campaign rally prior to Election Day. Tear-away blank contracts (coupons) were handed out. On Election Day, voters were seen handing in these coupons to people standing near the polling stations wearing large colored tablets, under the guise of conducting exit polls.
According to these coupons, voter-campaigners were to receive 200 rubles upon fulfillment of their contracts, and 300 rubles after voting.
There were signs that some voters, upon arriving at polling stations were required by the electoral commissions to pay remunerations, which were then forwarded to the people conducting exit poles. We have videos that discuss this technology. Examples include PECs # 6, 7, 8, 9, 160, 161, 175, 203, 204, etc.
It was widely reported that people were collecting around polling stations in order to exchange coupons for cash. Examples include PECs # 17 and 41.
It is known that these cases drew the attention of law enforcement agencies, which are currently reviewing the details.
Voter turnout was significantly lower than in the first round of elections on 4 May. This is likely due to voter fatigue from three electoral campaigns in a row, an abundance of black PR, and an obtrusive campaign.
There were several incidents of direct fraud in the form of ballot stuffing, including in PECs # 170 and 171.
Message # 11197, posted to the Map of Electoral Violations reported the following: «In PEC # 170 voters were observed in the act of ballot stuffing twice. The first case could not be prevented: a guy with a heavy backpack stuffed a package of ballots and then quickly disappeared. Observers attempted to thwart the second case. A girl carried out this operation. Surprisingly the chairman of the commission, Alexandra Nikolaevna Barchenkova, allowed the girl to stuff a package of extra ballots, arguing that the observers were impeding this citizen’s free will, preventing her from approaching the ballot box, but the girl had in her hands a package of sheets. She claimed it was a letter of congratulations that she had written for the candidate. On this basis, under the leadership of the PEC chairman, stuffing was successful. It’s funny, but the chairman of PEC 170 probably just forgot that the ballot boxes are now transparent and that fraud will inevitably be revealed.»
Information on violations can be submitted to GOLOS by way of its hotline at 8 800 333 33–50, or can be posted on the Map of Electoral Violations.
At 21:00, the SMS-CEC service will begin its parallel summarization of the electoral results at sms.golos.org.
Results of GOLOS Association’s monitoring of the Yaroslavl elections will be summarized at a press release at 12:00 on 2 April at the Ring Primer Hotel. A statement on the course of the elections will be distributed at the press conference to representatives of the media, and will be posted on GOLOS’ website, available at: www.golos.org.