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Investigation. In Ryazan, 9 out of 10 final protocols have not been properly certified

by Alexander Bechtold, Executive Director of Ryazan regional office of movement ‘For Human Rights’, ‘Golos’ Law Expert, Ryazan office 

During the 18 September 2016 Election to the State Duma of the VII Convocation, the regional branch of movement advocating for voters' rights 'Golos' in Ryazan region took part in the project 'National election commission'. We had a difficult task - with limited resources to demonstrate the most veracious estimations of election results. We have used a special sociological sampling method to evaluate the PEC compliance with the regulatory framework of the Russian Federation in one of the single-member constituencies in Ryazan region.

In case of the 18 September 2016 Elections, 'Golos' has taken a sample of 5% percent, while employing a ‘step by step method’. Our sampling area has comprised 28 polling stations in the single-member constituency No. 156 located in 15 different districts. In addition, the Ryazan office of ‘Golos’ has received information from four stationary observers covering polling stations that ‘have not been encompassed in the sampling area’, as well as complaints from various other polling stations in the Ryazan region reported by other sources.

The Ryazan office of ‘Golos’ has received 30 sets of final protocol copies (the number equals to the representative 5% sample in the constituency No. 156).

Under the Election Law, requirements to the certification of final protocol copy are the following:

  • a copy of the final protocol determining the precinct voting results, which corresponds to the primary document in its form and content, shall be certified by a chairman, deputy chairman or secretary of the precinct election commission, after verifying whether the data in the protocol copy corresponds to the primary document issued by the precinct election commission and signed by all present members of precinct election commission in a voting capacity (number of copy, polling station number, address of polling station, all the lines of the protocol filled with numeric data; therefore, it must be verified whether the numbers written in figures and words match);
  • at the front side of the document in the upper right corner, the chairman (or other official authorized to certify documents) shall mark it as a ‘copy’; next to the word ‘copy’ the number of copy shall be indicated ‘No.___’, in correspondence to the number noted while registering the issued protocol copies;
  • below the protocol lines or date and time of signing the protocol, the chairman or other official authorized to certify documents shall mark it as ‘certified’ or ‘certified copy’, indicate his/her surname, initials, post in the election commission and shall sign the document. Moreover, he/she must note down the date and time (hours and minutes) of certification and finalize the process by putting the precinct election commission stamp (blue print) on the document; the hours and minutes shall be written in numbers, respectively followed by the words 'hours' and ‘minutes';
  • if a protocol copy contains more than one page, each page shall be certified in the above specified order.

Please, find below the copies of final protocols issued in the Ryazan region:

Certification irregularities:

  • the number of a ‘copy’ of original protocol was not indicated on the first page of the copy;
  • the certified protocol copy does not contain the following information: post and name of the official who certified the copy;
  • the word ‘PEC’ and PEC number are missing in the certification note;
  • the certification text was written on the first page of the protocol copy.

Based on the sociological data sampling results, we can say that every ninth out of ten final protocol copies in the constituency No. 156 were certified in violation of the Russian electoral law. It is unlikely that the situation in the constituency No. 157 significantly differs, as the election commission of Ryazan region has been responsible for preparatory work for the polls in this constituency as well, including the training of election commission members and detailed instructions for the polling day.

The election commission of Ryazan region has already started planning its agenda for 2017. The Ryazan office of ‘Golos’ is also about to observe elections. Yet now we are going to immediately inform the prosecutors’ office about every improperly certified copy of the final protocol concerning incompliance with the law. Just because our task is to achieve that the elections held in the region are fair and to prevent misuse of public funds, the assets that were allocated for training of precinct election commissions, by ‘persons holding public office’.

Sofia Yurevna Ivanova, Director of Ryazan regional office of movement advocating for voters’ rights ‘Golos’

The conclusions to be drawn from this meticulous investigation of certified PEC protocol copies could have been foreseen and they are alarming and disappointing: only two out of thirty protocol copies were certified in compliance with the electoral law. Regarding the remaining protocol copies (28), numerous serious and grave violations of certification procedures were reported.

In addition, the Article 5.6 of the current Code of Administrative Offences (‘Violation of rights of election or referendum commission member, election observer, foreign (international) election observer, proxy or authorized representative of candidate, political alliance, member or authorized representative of group initiating referendum or other referendum group, as well as media representative’) reads as follows:

‘If chairman, deputy chairman, secretary or any other member of election commission… issued a certified copy of final protocol, establishing precinct voting results… and containing data that does not correspond to the original document or the chairman, deputy chairman, secretary or any other member of election commission in a voting capacity certified a protocol copy in violation of law, such misconduct can result in an administrative fine of one thousand five hundred to two thousand rubles’.

The lamentable conclusion to be drawn from this analysis reveals an extremely low legal literacy and negligent approach of precinct election commissions, as well as the territorial (district) election commissions or the election commission of Ryazan region, regarding the electoral law.