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Russian government plans massive remote ballot effort to increase turnout in constitutional reform vote

Source: Kommersant

The Russian newspaper Kommersant has learned that in the upcoming nationwide vote on major constitutional changes proposed by Vladimir Putin, voters will be permitted to cast their ballots at home or, in some cases, at work.

Precinct-wide election commissions have reportedly received orders to begin accepting remote voting applications on April 1. “The idea is that all a person will have to do to vote is get up off the couch,” said one source close to the presidential administration.

Kommersant’s sources said that while workplace voting will only be available in select locations, anyone will be able to vote from home. Russian election law indicates that only those who are demonstrably unable to vote in a polling place may cast their ballots in this way, but according to one source, those regulations do not apply to this particular voting process because it “is outside the juridical procedure” for official elections. Since the days immediately following Putin’s announcement of the planned reforms, analysts have indicated that the vote will indeed be something like a non-binding national survey rather than an official referendum.

Grigory Melkonyants, the co-chair of the Golos civil liberties movement, responded to news of the planned increases in voting accessibility by arguing that home voting would be a convenient tool for the government to increase turnout while obtaining the results it already desires.

Vedomosti reported on additional plans to organize voting sites at certain workplaces. Specifically, Central Election Commission Deputy Chair Nikolai Bulayev told the Russian executive branch’s constitutional working group that businesses with at least 200 – 300 employees may ultimately become eligible as potential voting sites. Current Russian law only permits workplace voting in facilities that must operate 24 hours a day or that serve as temporary working sites in remote areas.

Russian news sources have reported that the voting process will likely cost the federal government as much as the 2018 presidential election; it may take place on April 22. Russian law does not currently provide for a nationwide voting procedure that is not a referendum.

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