Poll violations: Invisible ink, ballot throw-in, illegal propaganda

Observers monitor CEC operations during Russia's 2011 elections (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Astapkovich)
Already on the day of the election several reports appeared on the internet claiming that violations had taken place at elections, sometimes accompanied by video recordings of the scandals.

One of the most popular videos, distributed by an activist who presented himself as Yegor Anatolyevich, showed the head of a local election commission filling some papers at his desk – the activist claimed that the official was preparing ballots for a throw-in and threatened to report this criminal offense to prosecutors. He also called upon party monitors to help him uncover the crime. However, both the observer, allegedly from the Communist Party, and the public failed to cooperate and the official said on the video that all charges were nonsense.

Watch on YouTube (in Russian)

On the day of the elections, a Russian internet daily ran a story in which it claimed that one of the daily’s reporters had uncovered a scheme, apparently planned by United Russia, to conduct an illegal throw-in of ballots at one of the polling stations in Moscow. According to the report, some obscure political specialists had gathered a group of about 40 people, described as ‘drunks and low-lifes’, and handed them special secret pockets and packs of filled ballots, marked for United Russia. Curiously, of the 40 people, three were undercover reporters from Gazeta.ru, the Lenta.ru website and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. When the prepared groups arrived at the polling station, the reporters sounded the alarm and forced the police to stop the illegal voting and possibly arrest some of the fraudsters.

Watch on YouTube (in Russian)

There was another video uploaded to YouTube from Yekaterinburg with claims that it showed preparation for the ballots throw-in the day before the election at one of the polling stations in the city.

A top official of the Central Election Commission has admitted that some of the violations reported by citizens actually took place, while observers from human rights watchdogs claimed that the violations were numerous and promised to take all cases to court.

The deputy head of the Central Election Commission, Leonid Ivlev, told reporters at a press conference on Sunday evening that the reports about violations during the parliamentary elections were partially confirmed. He named invisible ink, illegal propaganda, and the so-called “merry-go-round” – false voting by a group of specially prepared people.

The official said that the invisible ink trick was disclosed in time so the violation did not even happen and so it was more correct to talk of attempted violation. As for the “merry-go-round”, the deputy head of the commission said that the reports were tremendously exaggerated. For example, some observers accused their opponents of bringing 50 cars with 400 people to one polling station with the intent of affecting the vote. Such an action was hardly imaginable and had not been confirmed, Ivlev said.

He also said that many reports simply showed a lack of understanding of the election procedure. One of the party representatives was accused of keeping a copy of the Constitution on his working desk during the elections and one man said he had noticed a sticker on the passport of one of the voters and suggested that this was a special sign allowing him to vote many times under some secret agreement. “Colleagues, I have a sticker on my passport myself as I need it to distinguish between my internal and foreign passports. Where is the violation here?”

At the same time, the official stressed that all reports of violations would be thoroughly checked with the participation of police and prosecutors.

In a separate news conference the deputy interior minister, Aleksander Gorovoi, said police had registered 2050 violations of election law during the whole day, but none of these violations could seriously affect the final results of the elections. Most of these violations concerned illegal propaganda and the police had started administrative cases into these matters, the official said.

At the same time, observers from Russian human rights organizations said they had been informed of violations at the elections and intended to report them to law enforcers and prosecutors The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseeva, said that officials did not allow independent observers at polling stations. The head of the “For Human Rights” movement, Lev Ponomarev, also said he possessed information that monitors were barred from stations, or about various obstructions to the monitors’ work.

A group of international monitors invited by the Central Election Commission checked the voting in over 30 Russian regions and concluded that the poll was conducted calmly and in an orderly fashion. “All complaints are about technical issues and not about violations of election law,” Polish monitor Mateus Piskorski said.