Нарушения на выборах / Voting Irregularities

young woman confronts police officer

Audio Content: In Moscow, voters and polling site observers describe some of the odd large-group voting activity they are seeing in their precincts.
Video Content: Interior of two different Moscow voting sites.

Video available below or in a higher-quality version at TV Rain (subscription required).

Here’s a second post on the elections topic! See the previous post for information on the general results of the September parliamentary elections. This post focuses on some of the irregularities observed during the voting. The general consensus seems to be that this voting day had fewer irregularities than in 2011. Nevertheless, some apparent voting fraud was observed, and in any case there are numerous ways to influence elections well before voting actually occurs. The major Russian TV channels are more or less state-controlled and opposition parties do not get media exposure, public demonstrations require prior government approval, opposition candidates and parties are charged with crimes or administrative violations, etc. Meanwhile, a few types of voting-day fraud are well known enough to have acquired common nicknames. The most straightforward and egregious method is “вбросы,” simple ballot-box stuffing. One alarming instance of this in the city of Rostov was caught on video and widely circulated on the internet. Results for this precinct were subsequently annulled. Another method is the “карусель” or “merry-go-round.” In this procedure, voters (who for one reason or another — money, employment status — are under the control of the entity organizing the fraud) are given an already filled-out ballot. They go into the polling place and are given the same empty ballot as all voters. They then put the pre-provided ballot into the voting machine and upon exit give the empty ballot to the organizers of the fraud, who thereby confirm that the individual acted as instructed.

The potential voting irregularity featured in this post is related to a sort of absentee voting. Voters in Russia are able to vote at a site other than their home precinct if they provide a legal document called an “открепительное удостоверение” (loosely, a “detaching attestation”). This method might be used, for example, by someone who is working at a site far from home. But this procedure can also be used to affect the voting result if a large group of people are brought in to a small precinct to vote as outsiders. The issue may be that organized groups of voters are more easily controlled as part of a “merry-go-round” scheme, or that the absentee attestations are reused for multiple votes. In the September Duma election, some voters and polling place observers were concerned about unknown people showing up at polling places in large groups and voting with the “absentee” document. As you’ll learn from the video, it is illegal to bus in organized groups of voters, but if groups of 20 to 30 people happen to walk in with no transportation immediately visible (they may have exited a bus a few blocks away) then no violation can be confirmed. Hence the focus in some parts of the video on whether or not buses were observed.

The leading organization working to ensure fair elections in Russian is Голос (“Vote” or “Voice”). They designed a map where voters could record observed violations. This article by Meduza summarizes reported violations for the September 18 election.

Заметки о языке:

  • A ballot is a “бюллетень.” When completed it is inserted into an “урна.”
  • Some interesting aspects of verbs of motion occur in the conversation between the young woman and the police officer. The prefix “за” indicates stopping in somewhere relatively briefly, or crossing some threshold; it is used to refer to voters entering the polling place. The prefix “под” refers to an approach right up to some destination and often is used in the context of giving someone a ride somewhere; hence the term “подвоз” for the idea of transporting people to polling stations. Finally, also note that an action that has been undone must be described with an imperfective verb. So when the police officer refers generally to the fact that he exited earlier, but now obviously has already come back inside, he uses the imperfective verb “выходить.” But later, when narrating his actions step by step and describing what happened right after he went outside, he uses the perfective verb “выйти.”

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Video Clip

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Russian Transcript

0:00-0:50

Журналист: Здравствуй, Лола! Сегодня десятки людей, которые следят за тем, чтобы эти выборы были прозрачными, сообщают о нарушениях, которые происходят в столице. Говорят о том, что на целый ряд участков, которые как правило находятся в школах, приходят люди весьма организованными группами по 20, 30 человек. В основном выглядят они как рабочие с заводов либо со строек. У них у всех открепительные удостоверения. Они получают бюллетени и соответственно возможность проголосовать. О таких историях уже было заявлено более десятка раз. Ну и вот подобную картину мы наблюдаем прямо сейчас в 57-ой школе. Вот стоят как раз-таки эти люди. У всех у них в руках открепительные удостоверения. Пришли они единой группой и сейчас ждут того, чтобы можно было опустить бюллетень в урну.

2:25-3:55

After a bit we go to a different precinct where large-group voting has been reported. A young woman confronts a police or security officer about the possibly illegal mass voting she claims to have observed. She is very persistent, but doesn’t get very far in the face of the unflappable officer’s  insistence that if there was no transport observed, the mass voting is not illegal.

Девушка: Зафиксировали, что здесь, час назад, даже не час, дважды, были люди, приехавшие на автобусе — бюджетники, гастарбейтеры, непонятно как голосующие.

Полицейский (сотрудник правоохранительных органов): Выясняли этот вопрос. Значит, я выходил на улицу, узнавал у сотрудника ДПС, конкретно здесь автобусов никаких не было.

Девушка: Конкретно есть видеофакты и фотографии того, что к вам массово заходили на участок.

Полицейский: Массово на участок заходили, массово заходили на участок, но…

Девушка: Почему вы не пресекли это правонарушение? Массовое голосование по открепительным бюллетеням. Почему вы этого не пресекли?

Полицейский: Значит, массовое голосование я, насколько знаю, не запрещено, массово, Если… подвоз массово запрещено.

Девушка: Подвоз, массовое голосование. У вас на участке было полчаса назад — подвоз, массовое голосование.

Полицейский: Подождите меня. Значит, подвоз мной зафиксирован не был.

Девушка: Почему? Вы же сотрудник правоохранительных органов. Это ваша работа.

Полицейский: Да. Но здесь вот конкретно никто сюда не заезжал. Вы понимаете, о чем я говорю? Когда мне сообщили о том, что был подвоз туда, я вышел, никакого автобуса не было. Понимаете, о чем я говорю?

Девушка: Странно.

Полицейский: Ну, почему странно?

Девушка: Вы сами говорите, что они массово заходили голосовать.

Полицейский: Заходили массово… нет, я не говорил, что привезли. Я еще раз говорю, что подтверждено было то, что я видел, массово приходил народ, да, массово. Сколько человек, я не могу сказать, конкретно. Был массовый заход. А то, что их привезли на автобусе, зафиксировано не было.

In the following conversation another young woman confirms that people came to vote in a seemingly organized large group but that they arrived on foot. She claims, however, that the people organizing them did arrive in cars and that this is illegal.

4:40-5:25

Back at the polling place in School No. 57, the journalist interviews a concerned voter.

Женщина: Здравствуйте! Представиться?

Журналист: Скажите, как вас зовут.

Женщина: Меня зовут  Этус (?), Галина Наумовна. Я тут живу, в Хамовниках. Я тут неоднократно голосовала и первый раз вижу такую большую очередь, такую большую компанию неизвестных людей. Честно говоря, меня это очень настораживает. Мне это не нравится.

Журналист: Я слышал то, что вы только что беседовали с заместителем председателя избирательной комиссии. Что он вам сказал? Откуда эти люди?

Женщина: Он сказал, что эти люди строят Лужники. Ну, может, это так и есть. Но, в принципе, конечно, мне не нравится, потому что мне кажется, что эта очередь, она уже предопределила выборы на нашем участке. Всё!

6:20-6:45

The journalist interviews a young man who is a member of the precinct’s voting commission and affiliated with the Communist Party. He speaks very quickly, but that makes for good listening practice! Here is an excerpt of his comments.

Молодой человек: Дейстивтельно, такого я никогда не припомню. У нас всегда всё было спокойно. Вот сейчас вот… И тут какие-то махинации совершенно странны и нетипичны для того участка с открепительными удостоверениями. С девяти утра у нас не прекращается очередь по голосованию по открепительным удостоверениям. Приходят люди группами. Значит, кто-то… Большинство из них из Нижегородской области. То есть, имеют все одинаковые открепительные. И придраться действительно, к сожалению, не с чем, да, приостановить это, потому что мы не видим чтобы… нет… не организован подвоз. Просто люди приходят, нам говорят, что это рабочие, которые работают в Лужниках. Вот, проверить это мы никак не можем. Но такой компании, конечно, тут просто не было раньше.

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Semi-Literal English Translation

Journalist: Hello, Lola! Today dozens [lit. “tens”] of people who are watching [keeping track] to ensure these elections are transparent are reporting about some violations that are happening in the capital. People are saying that in a whole series of precincts, which as a rule are located in schools, people are arriving in quite organized groups of twenty or thirty people. For the most part [lit., “fundamentally”] they look like workers from factories or from construction sites. All of them have “detaching attestations” [the document that allows one to vote at a precinct other than one’s home precinct]. They are getting ballots and, consequently [“correspondingly”], the ability to vote.  There have already been statements made about such stories more than ten times. So, now here were are observing a similar situation [lit. “picture”] right now in School No. 57. Here are standing those very people. All of them have “detaching attestations” in their hands. They arrived as a unified group and now are waiting until they are able to drop the ballot into the voting box.

2:25-3:55

After a bit we go to a different precinct where large-group voting has been reported. A young woman confronts a police officer about the possibly illegal mass voting she claims to have observed. She is very persistent, but doesn’t get very far in the face of the unflappable officer’s  insistence that if there was no transport observed, the mass voting is not illegal.

Young woman: People have determined that here, an hour ago, not even an hour [ago], there were people who had arrived on a bus — state employees, guest workers, who were voting in some unexplainable way.

Police officer: We have clarified this question. So  [lit., “it means,” but “значит” is often used as a filler word], I went out onto the street and learned from the traffic officer [lit., “employee of the road patrol service”] that concretely here there were no buses at all.

Young woman: There are concrete video facts and photographs of the fact that people came [lit. stopped in] in a large group [“en masse”] to this precinct.

Police officer: People came to [“stopped in” to] the precinct in a large group, people came to the precinct in a large group, but…

Young woman: Why did you not put a stop to [lit. “cut off”] this violation of rights? Voting in large groups with absentee ballots. Why did you not put a stop to this?

Police officer: Well, voting in large groups, as far as I know, is not prohibited, in large groups. If… dropping people off in large groups is prohibited.

Young woman: Dropping people off, and voting in large groups. Half an hour ago, at your precinct, there was dropping off [of people], and voting in large groups.

Police officer: Wait a minute [lit., “wait for me”]. So, dropping off [of people] was not observed by me.

Young woman: Why? After all you are an employee of the security agencies [a common collective term for the police and similar organizations]. That is your job.

Police officer: Yes. But here, concretely, no one came in a vehicle [lit., “stopped by via vehicle”] to this place. Do you understand what I am talking about? When people reported to me that there was a dropping off [of people] out there, I went out, and there was no bus there. Do you understand what I am talking about.

Young woman: It’s strange.

Police officer: Well, why is it strange?

Young woman: You yourself say that they came by to vote in large groups.

Police officer: They came by in large groups… no, I didn’t say that they were brought here [via vehicle]. Once again I am saying: what I saw was confirmed — people came in a large group, yes, in a large group. How many people it was, exactly, I can’t say. There was a large-group arrival. But specifically that they were brought here on a bus — that was not determined.

In the following conversation another young woman confirms that people came to vote in a seemingly organized large group but that they arrived on foot. She claims, however, that the people organizing them did arrive in cars and that this is illegal.

4:40-5:25

Back at the polling place in School No. 57, the journalist interviews a concerned voter.

Voter: Hello! [Should I] introduce myself?

Journalist: Say what your name is.

Voter: My name is Etus, Galina Naumovna [in official contexts Russians often report their last name first]. I live here, in Khamovniki [a relatively central district of Moscow]. I have voted here several times [lit., not once, i.e. more than once] and for the first time I am seeing such a long line, such a large group of unknown people. To tell the truth, this line alarms me. I don’t like it.

Journalist: I heard that just now you were chatting with the vice chairperson of the voting commission. What did he say to you? Where are these people from?

Voter: He said that these people are building Luzhniki [a sports stadium]. Well, possibly, that is the truth [lit., that’s how it is]. But, in principle, of course, I don’t like it, because it seems to me that this line, it already predetermined the elections in our precinct. That’s all!

6:20-6:45

The journalist interviews a young man who is a member of the precinct’s voting commission and affiliated with the Communist Party. He speaks very quickly, but a small excerpt of his comments offers good listening practice.

Young man: Truly, I don’t remember anything like this ever. Everything was always calm here [lit., “at our place”]. And now this… And here there are some sort of machinations, which are absolutely strange and atypical for this precinct, with “detaching attestations” [the document that allows Russians to vote away from their home precinct]. Starting at nine a.m. the line for voting here with “detaching attestations” doesn’t ever stop. People are coming in groups. So it means, someone… The majority of them are from Nizhegorodskii region. That is, they all have the same attestation documents. And really, unfortunately, there are no objections one can make, nothing by means of which we can stop this, because we do not see… no… there is no organized dropping-off. People are simply coming, and we are told that these are workers who are working at Luzhniki [a sports stadium]. So, there is no way we can check that. But, of course, in the past there simply was never such a group here.

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