"Novye Izvestia" has already reported on the vile law adopted by the State Duma, depriving the suffrage of many Russian citizens. However, deputies did not stop only with this law. Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of the Voice for Fair Elections movement, analyzed other “innovations” adopted by the State Duma under the guise of an epidemic:
“May, 13 was a black day for the Russian elections, when the State Duma adopted two bills, one in the third, the other in the second reading. After studying the documents, it becomes clear that amendments to the next election will tighten the registration of candidates through the collection of signatures, uncontrollably expand voting outside the polling station, simplify the use of postal and remote electronic voting, and deny the right to run for election of new categories of citizens.
We analyze the amendments in parts.
1. Registration of candidates is tightened through collection of signatures
- From 10 to 5%, the number of invalid and inaccurate signatures required to refuse registration to a candidate is reduced. Twice it becomes easier not to allow candidates for elections.
- In addition to affixing a signature and a date, now the voter in the signature sheet must personally enter his name and surname. It will become much more difficult for collectors to collect signatures, and it will become easier for election commissions to “discard” them, since three new words are added for verification by a handwriter and for not always correct digitization for verification on the basis of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
- New restrictions are introduced for the signature sheet: it must contain strictly five lines for affixing voters' signatures and must be made to fill out on one side only. This limits the freedom of the campaign headquarters to choose the most convenient form for collecting signatures.
- At the same time, it is established that the regional law may provide for the collection of voter signatures through the State Service portal. However, the number of signatures collected in this way cannot exceed half the number of signatures required to register a candidate. Thus, this restriction devalues the idea of electronic collection of signatures - in order to protect oneself from the claims of handwriting experts and inaccurate databases of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the second half of the signatures - “paper”, if desired, you can always find 5% of the “marriage” and refuse to register the candidate.
2. Uncontrolled expansion of voting outside the polling station
- A significant part of the amendments is devoted to increasing the possibilities for voting outside the premises for voting - both on election day and ahead of schedule.
- The list of good reasons for a “home-based” vote becomes “rubber”. To the established good reasons "due to health and disability" are added "due to the need to care for those in need, and other good reasons that do not allow to arrive at the polling station."
- Opportunities for applying early voting of certain groups of voters are expanding (when commissions leave at the place of residence of voters). If earlier it could be held only in hard-to-reach and remote areas, now now within 15 days before the election day, commissions can vote in the settlements, "which are difficult to transport with."
“In addition, commissions can, within 7 days prior to the day of voting, organize early precinct polling stations“ in the adjoining territories, in the territories of common use and in other places ”for citizens who have applied for home voting (the list of reasons for which has become open).
- Such an exit early voting is weakly subject to public control, so it can become a convenient tool for fraud. Much will depend on the position of the CEC, which will have to determine the procedure for such a vote.
3. The use of postal and remote electronic voting is simplified.
- The CEC receives the authority by its decision to determine in which regions and according to what procedure to conduct voting by mail and through remote electronic voting. If earlier for the introduction of such forms of voting changes were required in regional laws, now the Central Election Commission will decide for them. Public control over such forms of voting is difficult. The risks associated with postal voting are related to the fact that it is impossible to verify whether the voter personally and freely votes, whether all ballots sent by voters are taken into account, and whether any manipulations with envelopes and ballots took place. The risks of remote voting are more multifaceted and are associated with violation of the secrecy of voting, the possibility of administrative pressure, malfunctioning of the system and the substitution of votes.
4. Amazed at the right to run for election new categories of citizens
- Citizens sentenced to imprisonment for committing medium-gravity crimes in 50 types of crimes are affected in passive suffrage, starting from public dissemination of knowingly false socially significant information or repeated violation of the rules of organizing a rally, ending with fraud, which we have “nightmare” business.
- There is a risk of growth in custom-made cases for objectionable political and public figures who will be held accountable in a preventive manner. For the application of restrictions it is not necessary to deprive a person of freedom, it will be enough to set a conditional term, after serving which a citizen will not be able to run for another 8 years. In our reality, observers are accustomed to considering the suspended sentence as an almost acquittal, but now new problems are being added.
5. A positive proposal is also being introduced on samples for filling out subscription lists.
- Election commissions will now approve a sample of filling out a subscription sheet, which will immediately indicate election data. This is good, because the candidates will have a ready-made form for use, it will not need to be prepared for each election on their own, under the threat of “rejection” by the commission in case of errors in the election data. But after the first reading of the bill, we expressed concern about the risks of what if the electoral commission makes a mistake when approving the sample. We were heard and, by the second reading, amendments were made that inaccuracies in the sample of the election commission and, as a result, in the candidate’s signature list cannot serve as a basis for invalidating voters' signatures...”