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Major scandal evolves around e-voting machines in Russia

This seems to be the first time Russian electronic system for counting paper ballots has had such major glitch…

On December 19th Russia's Arkhangelsky region hosted local Legislative Assembly elections. Several other major coastal towns were also electing new leaders of administration as well as local delegates at around the same time. The results shocked not only the actual candidates and voters but many members of the elections committee as well.

Apparently, what the electronic system for counting paper ballots had displayed had little to do with reality! Distrustful observers from the majority of candidates preferred to stand in close proximity to the electronic counting devices and counted each ballot manually. Hours later, the elections results were announced…and as it turned out, the results did not match at all! In fact, they weren't even close! Nonetheless, representatives of the elections committee refuse to conduct hand recount of the ballots. “This isn’t America!” they claim in unison.

Here is a real paradox: electronic machine manual FORBIDS hand recount of paper ballots. The situation resembles events in Abkhazia, Georgia and Ukraine. Rumor has it that supporters of the northern electorate intend to go on strike. Members of one of the opposition blocs in Arkhangelsk plan to the piquet local elections committee building. In the Russian town of Severodvinsk, crowds are already gathering by the city hall. Nearly two hundred complaints have been filed to the administration pointing to the severe violations of the elections process. The fact that the elections have been falsified appears clear as day. Usually calm coastal region of Russia is now furious.

The most authoritative regional newspaper “Pravda Severa” has published an interesting article entitled “The power of falsifications” prior to the elections. “In it the author states the following: “Elections scandals connected to the falsification of the final count tend to gain popularity across the globe: in America, Georgia, Abkhazia, Ukraine. Each one of these scandals is caused by strong desire of those at power to keep their power. In this situation the end justifies the means, indeed. Whereas the end symbolizes ultimate power and means – falsification of elections results. In case in 2000 American scandal has lead to a mere hand recount of paper ballots, in 2003, during Georgian elections, opposition forces have first seized the parliament and then the power itself. Ukraine is the most recent and most painful example of such falsification…”

“Scandal that has evolved around the elections in Severodvinsk (Arkhangelsk region) is destined to evolve into a major all-Russian issue. According to a reporter from Regions.Ru, on December 19th at approximately 11:00 pm at the polling station #835 noticed that the ballots were removed from the electronic machines taken some place in unsealed containers. The observers followed members of the committee to find out what was happening. As it turned out, the basement of Severodvinsk City Hall had an entire collection filled with voting ballots from all the polling stations. The ballots were left there practically unattended. Nearly fifteen individuals including candidates, members of their pre-elections campaigns have gathered in the basement. Law enforcement authorities were also present. Police soon sealed up the basement. Representatives of the Severodvinsk City hall have not commented the incident yet.”

Our special correspondent has got a hold of a copy of the elections protocol at one of the polling stations in Severodvinsk. 980 voting ballots have been distributed among voters at the polling station #858. Only 701 of those ballots ended up inside the machines. Such mismatch occurred at almost every single polling station across the region. Interestingly, all the ballots still remain in the basement of Severodvinsk City Hall.

It has just come to our knowledge that local elections committee has decided to count the ballots by hand at one of the polling stations. The recount is scheduled to take place this Saturday.

This situation in Severodvinsk closely resembles the US elections of 2000 and 2004. Perhaps, on a slightly smaller scale though. In any case however voters’ rights have been violated. In 2000 George Bush managed to win the elections after a hand recount.