On September 16, the Primorsky Krai held a runoff gubernatorial election between acting Governor Andrey Tarasenko of United Russia and Andrey Ishchenko of the Communist Party. In the first round on September 9, the incumbent won 46.6 percent of the vote against Ishchenko’s 24.6 percent. As precincts reported their results on election day, however, the challenger appeared to be on his way to an upset victory, holding onto a more-than-five-point lead with just five percent of the precincts left uncounted. But then something happened, and Tarasenko suddenly shot ahead. Meduza explains why there’s every reason to believe that something was criminal election fraud.
Communist Party candidate Andrey Ishchenko was winning the election with 98.77 percent of all precincts reporting, but he began losing when the last 0.97 percent of results started coming in.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Ishchenko held a solid five-percent lead over Tarasenko, still leaving the incumbent with a theoretical chance of victory, but only if the remaining uncounted precincts had big turnout and nearly everyone there voted for the acting governor.
The election monitoring group Golos attributes the election’s sudden shift to results from just four precincts (0.26 percent of all polling stations). At these sites, Tarasenko picked up 13,595 votes — every single vote cast, plus a few extras (given that only 3,000 voters can be registered at a single precinct). Ishchenko, meanwhile, managed to lose five votes at these sites (which is only possible theoretically if repeat ballots were logged).
According to Golos, the acting governor regularly won more than 90 percent of the votes cast at individual polling stations in certain areas of Ussuriysk. This is quite irregular, but it’s even more suspicious when considering the fact that these precincts were some of the last to report their results.
Communists say Tarasenko owes his breakthrough to city election officials in Ussuriysk, who the party says simply changed the reported vote tallies from two dozen precincts, stuffing ballots for the acting governor and subtracting them from Ishchenko. The stunt allegedly netted the incumbent 20,000 votes more votes than polling stations actually recorded.
Stuffing ballots for one candidate simultaneously increases the overall turnout, which is why abnormally high turnout at some precincts could be evidence of stuffed ballots or counting violations. Electoral statistician Sergey Shpilkin created several graphs showing the distribution of turnout at polling stations throughout Primorye and found abnormal peaks at several precincts. At most polling stations, however, the elections seem to have taken place without apparent abnormalities, Shpilkin says.