Statement of GOLOS Association on the Results of Long-Term Observation of the Yaroslavl Mayoral Revote on 1 April 2012
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. Correspondents visited more than 240 Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs) in Yaroslavl on Election Day.
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.
On Election Day, the GOLOS Association hotline received over 150 tips. Evidence of 67 possible violations was posted on the Map of Electoral Violations website, at www.kartanarusheniy.org.
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.
Thanks to the high level of activity of observers and media representatives that arrived from various regions, monitoring of the transparency of the elections and adherence to legislatively established electoral procedures for voting and counting was very thorough.
On a good note, there were not many problems with polling stations refusing to admit media representatives. Such problems arose in only two PECs, # 27 and 220. In rare cases, the application of pressure on monitors and media representatives was observed, such as in PEC # 217.
Furthermore, observers and voters positively evaluated the presence of translucent ballot boxes, and expressed the belief that this change fosters confidence in electoral procedure.
Off-premises or “At Home” Voting
The most significant violations of legally established procedures were connected with voting outside of polling station premises.
In traveling off-premises to accommodate voting, commissions frequently failed to adhere to legislatively prescribed norms (for example, PECs # 108, 109, and 238,) using lists with the following errors:
- 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, who were then surprised by the arrival of PECs at their homes during this round of elections. Many voters were outraged in the districts of PECs # 108 and 238 district for this reason.
The percentage of “at home” voters has not changed significantly when compared with the first round of elections. In the first round, the figure was 2.9% (13,702 of 474,706.) In the second round, this figure was 2.6% (11,690 of 454,667.)
In some polling stations, including PECs # 97, 179, and 192, GOLOS correspondents observed the refusal to allow monitors to be present during mobile voting.
Bribery of Voters
A feature of these elections was the use of a paid campaigning process by way of an agreement with 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.
The GOLOS Association hotline received reports of more than 40 PECs providing evidence of the alleged bribery of voters using these so-called coupons.
Voter-campaigners were to receive 200 rubles upon commencing the contract, and 300 rubles after voting.
Mobile teams of observers, media representatives, and law enforcement agencies thwarted many such attempted violations.
We have at our disposal video footage in which individuals provide first-hand accounts of these technologies, for example 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. However, documentary proof of such could not be obtained.
The strong resonance created by the evidence led to the identification of the headquarters of the group supervising the coupon voting operation at 62 Prospekt Leningrad. According to the information made available to us, supervisors were sent to the Yaroslavl holding company after having departed from electoral commissions. As a result of our having learned of the above address, a group of observers from various organizations was sent to observe and record possible violations of the law. Law enforcement agency representatives also visited the building and have detained the alleged perpetrators.
We would like to emphasize the cooperation of the police identifying and impeding bribery attempts. For example, at PEC # 139 Major Mladenis removed the aforementioned coupons and questioned the people from whom they were seized. Lieutenant Gotilov undertook similar actions in PECs # 152 and 153. As a result, documentary evidence has been obtained, which provides a basis for the initiation of administrative proceedings against the perpetrators. The collection of these coupons under the guise of exit polls is symptomatic of an administrative violation under Article 5.6 of the Administrative Code, which addresses the buying of votes.
In our view, this technology is not highly effective as it cannot be implemented en masse, and it may have been a provocation staged by forces that disagree with the electoral results. It is possible for there to be a situation wherein the electoral commission or the courts can treat the relevant evidence with prejudice, and can thus establish that the electoral violations rendered it impossible to determine the will of the voters with any certainty.
The Number of Voters, Voter Turnout, and the Results of the Election
The number of voters included in the voter lists by the end of the second round of voting was 473,294. The number at the end of the first round was 474,706. This shows a decrease of 1,412 voters.
Voter turnout substantially decreased, from 63.5% during the first round to 45.4% during the second. This is likely due to voter fatigue from three electoral campaigns in a row, an abundance of black PR, and an obtrusive campaign.
Table 1: The Dynamics of Voter Turnout in the First and Second Elections
Preliminary results of voting were obtained within 20 minutes of the closing of polling stations. Subsequent data has not significantly changed the percentage of votes cast for the candidates.
Preliminary results of Yaroslavl’s SMS-CEC parallel count of votes, as provided by observers, as of 12:00 on 2 April.
- Processed protocols: 118
- Evgeny Urlashov: 69.8%
- Yakov Yakshev: 27.66%
- Invalid ballots: 2.56%
Preliminary official results at 1:41 on 2 April
- Evgeny Urlashov: 69.65%
- Yakov Yakshev: 27.78%
- Invalid ballots: 2.56%
Evidence of Individual Violations
GOLOS Association notes that in rare cases, there were restrictions on the placement and free movement of observers, as well as illegal restrictions on their rights to record their findings via photo and video technology.
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. For example, in PEC 139 the ballot boxes and ballot issuance desks were located in different premises. There is evidence of four PECs having violated ballot issuance procedures, including PECs # 64, 126, 167, and 192.
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.»
The Counting of Votes
According to the data provided by the Civic Voice correspondents, the vote counting process went relatively smoothly, without any gross violations of electoral law. In a small number of polling stations, evidence was observed of the combining of procedural steps during the vote count, and of counting from the voter lists at the same time as counting the ballots from the stationary and mobile boxes, for example in PECs # 242, 171, and 251.
Our estimation of the outcome of the second round of Yaroslavl’s mayoral elections was calculated—as in the past—in accordance with the law. Individual procedural violations—primarily pertaining to voting outside of the premises—had no effect on the determination of the will of the voters.
The rights of observers and other persons authorized to be present in the election commissions were respected almost completely.
A preliminary analysis of the official electoral statistics supports a conclusion of the legality of the voting and counting processes.
GOLOS Association believes that the second round of voting and counting was carried out in accordance with the law, and attributes the following factors:
- A lack of administrative pressure during the voting and counting processes
- The impact made by public monitoring en masse during these stages of the election