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Siberian Election Official Says At-Home Voting Being Misused To Falsify Elections

Russians are going to vote across the country from September 17-19. (file photo)
Russians are going to vote across the country from September 17-19. (file photo)

KEMEROVO, Russia -- Andrei Biryukov, a member of the regional election commission of Siberia's Kemerovo region, says he has discovered procedural violations in all 12 polling stations around the town of Guryevsk (population 24,000). Moreover, he believes the irregularities were intentional, aimed at facilitating falsification of the ongoing elections in Russia.

Voters in Russia are going to the polls from September 17 to 19 to elect a new State Duma, as well as to participate in many regional elections.

Biryukov told RFE/RL that one polling station (No. 1044) did not have a register of people who had requested to vote from home. When Biryukov requested the documents, polling station officials became hostile.

"The polling station workers would not let me examine the documents and pulled them out of my hands," he said. "They surrounded the table and turned their backs to me. The polling station head demanded that I leave."

He said that all of the polling stations he visited reported that 20-25 percent of registered voters had purportedly requested to vote from home.

"I think that is a sign of future falsifications," he said. "Already the procedure for registering at-home voters is going on with clear violations, and we are not being allowed to verify their identities."

At polling station No. 1048 in the settlement of Malaya Salairka, Biryukov was able to call a few of the telephone numbers listed on the polling station's register of at-home voters. He did so on speaker phone in the presence of other members of the regional election commission.

One woman said she had not applied to vote at home, that she planned to vote in person, and that her name and surname were not the ones on the polling station list, although the address was correct. Another told him that he had no intention of voting at all and had not requested to vote from home.

"The chairman of the regional election commission commented: 'I have worked on elections for many years now and I have never before seen this information checked,'" Biryukov told RFE/RL.

The regional election commission held a meeting about Biryukov's findings on September 16. Although the commission told RFE/RL that Biryukov had been informed of the meeting, Biryukov said he learned about it only when RFE/RL queried him.

The commission rejected all of Biryukov's complaints, accepting the word of the head of polling station No. 1044 that all requested documents had been provided to him. The commission ruled that Biryukov must have made errors when writing down the phone numbers of those who purportedly requested to vote from home from polling station No. 1048 and had "telephoned unknown people."

Written by RFE/RL senior correspondent Robert Coalson based on reporting from Kemerovo by Andrei Novashov of the Siberia.Realities desk of RFE/RL’s Russian Service

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