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Новость16 November 2021, 09:27
Collage: Ksenia Telmanova

On September 20, 2021, the “Golos” Movement issued a statement following the observation of the September 19, 2021 elections, stating that “the current electronic voting system does not meet the high standards of public accountability of electoral procedures” which the Russian Constitution and legislation establish as mandatory. 

Despite Golos' clear position that the current remote electronic voting (REV) does not meet the high constitutional standards for the expression of the voters' will, promoters of electronic voting have been misleading society for two months now, claiming that Golos has found no problems with this system. They make reference to individual sentences taken out of the context, either from the report of the technical audit group of the REV or from materials posted on the Golos website in the opinions section, where a discussion was held by various authors on the problems of electronic voting. Neither of these reflects the position of Golos. 

We are therefore forced to state the following.

The introduction of any new methods of voting must be accompanied by the possibility for public control of the voting procedure and the accuracy of the vote count. Any method of voting must guarantee compliance with the principles of elections enshrined in Russian law and in the international electoral standards recognized by Russia.

Such principles, standards, and guarantees of their implementation include:

  1. Freedom of expression of the voters' will. No one should be forced to participate or not to participate in elections or to vote for specific candidates. The state is obliged to ensure the protection of citizens from such coercion. As it stands, remote voting provides opportunities to control the will of voters, including by their supervisors. 
  2. Secrecy of Voting. The voter must be able to keep their vote secret. The Venice Commission points out that secrecy extends to lists of voters. At this point, the public is not certain that the secrecy of the vote was preserved.
  3. Accuracy of the vote count. The public should have the right to verify the accuracy of the vote count and the compilation of the voter lists. The guarantee of this is openness, transparency, and the possibility of public monitoring of electoral procedures. In addition, the electronic voting system should recognize votes that have been subjected to unauthorized processing. Unfortunately, right now even members of the election commission cannot verify the accuracy of the vote count in the electronic voting and recheck its results. It should be noted that there were anomalies during the remote electronic voting in Moscow that caused the public to strongly distrust its official results.
  4. The remote electronic voting methods should be safe and reliable: the system should resist the attempt of intentional hacking, it should function independently, regardless of any hardware and software failures, the data should be accessible to a circle of people clearly defined by the electoral commission. The voter must be able to obtain confirmation that they have voted, and be able to correct a voting error, if necessary, without compromising the secrecy of the vote. In addition, it should be possible to verify the proper functioning of the electronic voting system. There have been no comprehensive independent examinations of the electronic voting systems for the possibility of internal and external interference, and there have been numerous malfunctions during the two years of experiments with the REV, including in 2021.

In general, the voting system is supposed to ensure public confidence in its results. However, the remote electronic voting currently being introduced in both versions (by the Department of Information Technologies of the City of Moscow and by Rostelekom) does not guarantee compliance with the principles and standards listed above. Moreover, their observance is difficult, if at all, compatible with any remote and, all the more so, with the “paperless” type of voting. It should be noted that many countries with a long tradition of free and fair elections have abandoned online voting for this very reason after some experimentation.

The organizers of our elections are persistently introducing REV without fully ensuring the guarantees of electoral rights. We do not rule out the possibility that this forced introduction of REV is a preparation for mass falsifications and other manipulations at the next federal elections.

The minimum conditions for the introduction of the REV are to ensure public confidence and control, which, in particular, should include full transparency of the program codes. Other conditions for the implementation of the REV must also be agreed upon by the public. Fulfilling these conditions is a matter of years. 

The minimum conditions for the implementation of REV are to ensure public trust and control, which, among other things, must include full openness of program codes. Other conditions for the implementation of REV must also be agreed upon by the public. Fulfilling these conditions is a matter of years. 

Golos states that, at present, the introduction of REV in Russian elections is premature, harmful, and dangerous. 

We call for the implementation of REV to be abandoned in the coming years. In developing REV systems for the distant future, one must first work with society to develop the legislative, institutional, and technological guarantees for the observance of electoral rights of citizens.