On 7 March 2018, at the 147th meeting of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, Chairperson of the CEC of Russia Ella Pamfilova presented the results of the consideration of complaints and appeals received by the Commission.
According to Ella Pamfilova, as of 6 March 2018 the CEC of Russia received 13,571 letters, the Information and Reference Center received 69,007 calls on election campaign issues, bringing the total number of appeals to 82,578.
The overwhelming majority of appeals and letters (80,318 or 97 percent) were of an information and reference nature. Voters are interested in the voting procedure during the election of the President of the Russian Federation, including voting by locations, voting abroad, and the schedule of election commissions.
Only 2,260 calls and written appeals from voters, candidates, candidates’ agents, and other parties in the electoral process were related to possible violations of the electoral legislation, Ella Pamfilova said. People point to inaccuracies in electoral rolls, errors made in accepting voters’ applications to be included in the electoral roll for their constituencies, as well as election campaign violations in the media.
The CEC of Russia also received 46 complaints from candidates and 27 appeals from candidates’ agents, mainly related to campaigning in the media. The Commission received 64 complaints from presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin and his agents, 5 complaints from Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his agents, and one complaint from Sergei Baburin, Maxim Suraykin, Ksenia Sobchak, and Grigory Yavlinsky and their agents each.
Also, among calls and complaints received by the CEC of Russia, there were 328 appeals related to the use of so-called administrative leverage.
“In order to solve issues with appeals more expeditiously, more effectively and more objectively, in addition to more traditional methods of handling complaints, we have also launched a mechanism for analyzing and categorizing appeals by regions, and now we forward consolidated results to governors, chairmen of election commissions of constituent entities of the Russian Federation, and to the Presidential Administration to make sure that they are aware of how the administrative leverage is being misused in this or that region.”
The CEC of Russia submitted for consideration by competence:
41 appeals to the heads of constituent entities of the Russian Federation; 39 appeals to internal affairs agencies; 2 appeals to prosecution agencies; 1 appeal to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.
The rest of the appeals were examined by the election commissions of constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
Examination of many appeals have not been completed yet. However, in 21 cases no violations reported in the complaints have been found. In the course of the checks it has been revealed that forgeries are often submitted to the CEC of Russia under the guise of complaints.
Unfortunately, this “junk information” supported by no evidence is circulating the Internet, the Chairperson of the CEC of Russia stated.
“Complaints allegedly signed by the names of third persons, who are completely unrelated to the appeals, are replicated by monitoring organizations, after which general conclusions are drawn about mass violations. We will deal in detail with each specific appeal and refute deliberates lies,” Ella Pamfilova said. At the same time, there are also confirmed facts of violations, the Chairperson of the CEC of Russia said, having mentioned the Moscow city administration’s prompt reaction to the complaints received. The verification of one of the appeals received has confirmed information about attempts to supervise the participation of Mosgortrans division’s employees in the elections.
“We have virtually entered the final stage of the election campaign now and have seriously strengthened the complaints handling procedure from 1 March 2018, especially that regarding the administrative leverage. We are considering almost all of them – and we received 63 such complaints in March – in a manual mode,” the Chairperson of the CEC of Russia said.
Member of the CEC of Russia, Yevgeny Shevchenko, reported back on the results of the review of one of these complaints: to check the facts alleged in the complaint, he went to St. Petersburg. The appeal reported about violations in the filing of applications for voting at the city hospital No. 15.
“The subject of a complaint was that the applicant got the impression that the hospital staff was being forced to take advantage of a new voting procedure by location. The facts of compulsion to vote were not confirmed, but considering the complaint raised a number of questions. One of the concerning points was that the CEC of Russia had reacted to this appeal more promptly than local election commissions. Secondly, the election commission established at the hospital violated the rules for managing and storing of election documents. This shows that the level of training of members of election commissions is insufficient,” Yevgeny Shevchenko said.
Some complaints require consideration by the working group of the CEC of Russia, which Ella Pamfilova proposed to set up in the first half of March. A number of appeals regarding possible violations of the electoral legislation will be considered in the presence of expert community and other parties to the electoral process.
Ella Pamfilova presented analysis findings of anonymous online reports to the session attendees. “We have ample reports, including those on the ‘Golos Map of Elections Violations’, which, in my opinion, should be called ‘The Alleged Violations Map’. We’re ready to thank for reports about real violations, but we will challenge any wishful thinking as it drains our resources that could be used to deal with grave violations, albeit few in number,” the Chairperson of the CEC of Russia said.
As of 26 February 2018 the CEC of Russia and the election commissions of the nation’s constituent entities analyzed 492 reports with the “18 March 2018 elections” tag on the ‘Map of Elections Violations’. The website authors, however, claim the reports had been uploaded with no pre-moderation or preliminary investigation of information.
After summing up and analyzing all appeals they can be split into three groups:
Group 1: unsupported allegations and/or made up reports backed by no specific facts; these cannot be actually checked and are misinforming in nature.
Group 2: reports of violations that are not against the election legislation per se, but could have an impact on the election campaign. “For instance, it was a matter of some official giving an interview having a portrait of the incumbent President on the wall. We’ve spotted 389 such reports which do not contravened the country’s election legislation directly. These account for 79% of all reports submitted. Let me say, I have deep respect towards independent observers – for we can’t always be right, as no one has monopoly over the truth – but all the anonymous reports will be looked into as thoroughly as possible.”
Group 3: reports actually carrying information on possible violations.
“According to our estimates, as many as 103 reports fall into this category. No election legislation breaches were found in 78 of these, and we’re ready to unveil the inspection results in detail. Only 25 of the appeals, or 5% of the total, were found as carrying facts proving noncompliance with the country’s election legislation. I thank everyone who submitted these to the “Golos” website. Measures have been taken,” Ella Pamfilova said.