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Freeing up the weekend Russia’s first day of voting in the State Duma elections starts with abnormally long lines at polling stations

Source: Meduza

On Friday, September 17, Russia kicked off the first of three days of voting in the State Duma elections, as well as in a number of regional parliamentary elections. Things got off to a busy start with many polling stations seeing abnormally long lines of civil servants and military personnel looking to cast their ballots first thing in the morning. Journalists, human rights activists, and election observers were quick to point this out. According to Meduza’s sources, government employees were pressured to vote en masse before noon on Friday, to ensure maximum turnout from the get-go.

According to a Meduza source close to Putin’s administration, the entire mass of “administratively-dependent voters” are supposed to cast their ballots in the State Duma elections before noon on Friday, September 17. Another source close to the Moscow Mayor’s Office confirmed that there were “insistent demands” that employees working for the government and adjacent institutions vote before 12:00 p.m. on Friday, though they were supposed to do so online. “This is necessary to ensure mobilization — [the authorities] will have more time to mobilize those [state employees] who didn’t come in the first wave on Friday morning. Essentially, there’s still all three days for this,” said Meduza’s source close to Putin’s administration.

Naturally, photos and videos of the long lines at polling stations across the country have been populating social media since voting opened on Friday morning. 

Krasnoyarsk

Kyzyl (Tuva Republic)

Novosibirsk 

Omsk

Yekaterinburg

Vladivostok

Vasily Shiplov, a State Duma candidate from the Communist Party (KPRF) in Tomsk, said that in Siberia, there was organized mass coercion of state employees, in order to get them to vote on the morning of September 17. “The regional authorities are silent — in a whisper, they explain that this is some kind of ‘Mobilization’ [sic] and the team was sent down from Moscow,” he claimed. According to the KPRF candidate civil servants, were forced to register at polling stations near their place of work — rather than near their residential addresses — under threat of losing their jobs. Shiplov added that he has already filed a corresponding complaint with the head of the Central Election Commission.

The local publication Tayga.Info also obtained a memo that was allegedly distributed to government workers in the Krasnoyarsk territory. The document contained boilerplate answers to questions about why someone would choose to vote during working hours on Friday.

— Why are you voting today specifically?

 — I decided to vote on Friday to free up the weekend.

— Why are you voting at this polling station? Do you live here?

— This is the closest polling station to my place of work. Therefore, it’s convenient for me to vote here. 

Asked about the long lines at polling stations, the chairman of the Sverdlovsk region’s election commission Vladimir Rusinov gave the exact same answer. “For many, it’s convenient to go to a polling station before work on Friday, to free up the weekend,” he said.

During his daily press briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rebuffed questions from journalists about civil servants being forced to go out and vote with a similar response. “People are coming to vote. Both military personnel and police officers vote. It’s an absolutely normal practice. Voting [takes place over] three days, many people want to vote as soon as possible, to free up the weekend for themselves.”

The three-day voting period in Russia’s elections runs from Friday, September 17 to Sunday, September 19. In addition to the State Duma elections, 12 regions are electing new leaders, and 39 regions are electing legislators. 

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Staying safe and voting smart Meduza addresses the questions and concerns haunting Russian opposition voters this weekend

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