The Central Election Commission has approved remote online voting in Kaliningrad, Novgorod, Tomsk, Yaroslavl, Kaluga, Kursk, and Pskov regions during elections to be held on Single Election Day in 2022. Formally, the decision to hold online voting in Moscow has not yet been made, but there is little doubt that it will happen.
We asked Golos representatives and experts to assess how the introduction of online voting would affect the campaign in their regions.
Vladimir Zhilinsky, Pskov:
The level of digitalisation in the impoverished Pskov region is quite low. There are polling stations with no computers, no printers, and no road there either. The commissions write protocols by hand. For them, remote electronic voting is extremely relevant – there is not even cellular connection. In addition, the previous experience of using remote electronic voting in Moscow elections clearly showed that this is nothing but a way to falsify the results of elections. I am afraid that knowing this, observers and voters will have very little motivation in advance to take part in these elections, if they can be called that.
Anna Yudina, Tomsk:
On the one hand, our region is quite safe in terms of clean procedures and organisation of elections; on the other hand, the reputation of remote electronic voting is questionable. Besides the possibility of remote voting, a new source of administrative leverage has been created.
Ivan Luzin, Kaliningrad:
Recently, it was discussed whether the authorities would officially cancel the gubernatorial elections. They were embarrassed to cancel them completely, and instead decided to turn the elections into fake ones. The result can now be controlled not only administratively, but merely by pressing a button. This is disappointing – there were places in Kaliningrad Oblast where there was something akin to political competition. Although not at the level of gubernatorial elections – everything here has been controlled for a long time.
Anton Sheinin, Yaroslavl:
It won't change anything in the gubernatorial elections. It will only provide a safety net against the accidental victory of one of Evraev’s sparring partners. But in the municipal elections, it can add fire and post-election scandals. Simply because the procedure of remote electronic voting is not transparent and is used to force the administration-dependent electorate to vote.
Ksenia Cherepanova, electoral expert, Veliky Novgorod:
In Novgorod region, the use of remote electronic voting was dictated, on the one hand, by the desire to raise the turnout, and, on the other, by the desire to provide a result that would ensure the victory of the United Russia's incumbent governor, Andrei Nikitin, in the first round.
First, Novgorod region is one of the regions with a low turnout in the cities, where most of the voters reside. It is expensive and risky to solve the turnout problem by traditional voting at polling stations: people “gave up” on elections long ago, the turnout of 25-30% became the norm. Thus, employees of major enterprises, state employees, and officials will be forced to vote at their workplaces via the state services portal, or their right to vote will be exercised in their name for by “personnel officers” who have access to their employees’ logins and passwords. This practice has been widely tested in the Novgorod region in the United Russia primaries.
Secondly, the first-round victory is also controversial. Andrei Nikitin is an unpopular outsider governor, to whom almost any registered Novgorod candidate is a serious opponent – if not in the final outcome, then certainly in pushing the election to a second round. The introduction of remote electronic voting in the gubernatorial elections guarantees the desired result for the United Russia party and relieves Andrei Nikitin of the fear of the unknown.
Evgeny Fedin, programmer, member of the territorial election commission, SONAR movement, Moscow:
The Moscow City Election Commission (MSEC) does not need to coordinate remote voting with the CEC, as Moscow previously used its own electronic voting information system. The MSEC only needs to notify the CEC of its decision to conduct remote voting.