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Photos of Russians voting in unusual places are all over social media — don’t worry though, it’s legal

Source: Meduza

June 25 marks the first day of voting in Russia’s plebiscite on constitutional amendments — a nationwide vote that could allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036. Following months of advertising and an official push for voting online, however, many Russian citizens were surprised to find out that the government’s high-tech electoral capabilities don’t extend to in-person voting.

As it turns out, casting a paper ballot doesn’t necessarily involve a fully equipped polling station. Posts on social media show Russians partaking in the plebiscite in all kinds of unusual places, including on a bus, at a playground, and even on a tree stump next to a local well. We could go on, but it’s easier to see for yourself.

So wait, is this allowed?

All of the options pictured above have been made possible thanks to recommendations made to election commissions for reducing the risk of the spread of COVID-19. These recommendations were agreed upon and approved on June 10, 2020. And parts of the document are so vague that you can interpret it however you like.

In particular, paragraph 1.1 of the document says that if the location where voting usually takes place does not meet epidemiological safety standards, you can set up an open-air site in the adjoining area or in a public space. For example, outside of the entrance to the polling station or somewhere nearby.

In other words, letting voters formally cast their ballots on a tree stump or a large rock does not violate the official recommendations — so long as the tree stump or rock in question is located near the site where voting usually takes place.

What are electoral officials saying?

Despite the photos circulating online, the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, is denying everything. She says there’s no way anyone is voting out of the trunk of a car.

“Now they sent through to me that there are complaints about field voting. Social networks are spreading [claims] that voting on benches and from car trunks is illegal. Forgive me, but no one here is voting on a bench and from the trunk of a car, no one is voting in tents. Only canopies are in the open air,” Pamfilova commented. 

“There is no voting on benches or from car trunks and there will not be [any],” she continued. “And all of the outdoor voting is taking place in the presence of observers.”

Story by Maxim Ivanov

Translation by Eilish Hart