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Just a crosscheck, not a recount Public monitors in Moscow vow to revisit the city’s controversial online ballots

Source: Meduza

Moscow’s Election Monitoring Public Committee has instructed its technical team to recount the city’s electronic votes in last weekend’s parliamentary elections, the group’s deputy chairman, Ekho Moskvy radio station editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov, announced on Wednesday. The decision apparently acknowledges complaints about irregularities in the capital’s online voting, though the recount will have no legal force. “It’s just a crosscheck,” Venediktov explained. Meduza breaks down what this means exactly.

“We’re asking the team to conduct a recount [of the remote electronic votes]. [...] And there’s a second proposal to grant open access to all the graphics and elements involved in the electronic voting,” said Alexey Venediktov, the deputy chairman of Moscow’s Election Monitoring Public Committee. He says he’d like to consider sharing the ballot data on the committee’s website or on social media.

Venediktov, who has faced blistering criticism from some in the anti-Kremlin opposition for his involvement in Moscow’s voting, also asked the Central Election Commission to preserve the elections’ “paper trail,” referring to printouts of encrypted online ballots. “I’m asking the commission to keep this. If necessary, after all the [electronic] recounts, we will decide on recounting the paper ballots,” Venediktov said.

The committee’s recount should be done by September 27. 

After Venediktov’s announcement, Moscow’s election commission clarified that it invited the public monitoring committee’s technical team “to verify independently the accuracy of the online vote count by means of an audit.” Moscow Deputy Election Commissioner Dmitry Reut stressed that a formal recount of any ballots in last weekend’s election is only possible by court order.

The results of Moscow’s electronic voting were published several hours late. In the six other regions that offered online ballots, final tallies were released to the public almost immediately after polls closed. In Moscow, these numbers weren’t available until the next day.

Alexey Venediktov has attributed the delay to the fact that Moscow alone offered electronic voters the ability to change their votes several times before the elections were over. Of the two million Moscow residents who voted electronically, roughly 300,000 people reportedly changed their votes at least once, adding to the time needed to process their ballots, says Venediktov.

After studying the online results, independent candidate Anastasia Bryukhanova’s campaign chief Maxim Katz declared that between 13,000 and 26,000 electronic votes went uncounted. At the same time, Katz says the total number of online ballots counted exceeds the population of online registered voters by nearly 20,000.

Before electronic votes were added to the election results in Moscow, multiple opposition candidates (including Bryukhanova) led in-person voting. They all lost their leads when the online votes were added into the mix. Arguing that anomalies mar Moscow’s electronic results, multiple politicians are now demanding the annulment of these votes, though no campaign or political party has dared to attempt large street protests.

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Cover photo: Pixabay

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