Controversy over disabling automatic downloads of election results forces informatization head to resign from Russia’s Election Commission
Mikhail Popov, the head of the Federal Center of Informatization (FCI) at Russia’s Central Election Commission, has resigned following controversy over the addition of a captcha test to the website where the commission publishes official data on election results. His resignation was reported by Central Election Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova.
“Mikhail Anatolievich Popov wrote a resignation letter of his own free will. I believe he did what a real leader should do, like a man, like an officer, who took full responsibility for the actions of his subordinates with respect to what happened with our captchas, [this] deserves great respect,” Pamfilova said, as quoted by Interfax.
The captcha test first appeared on the website vybory.izbircom.ru after July 1, 2020 — the final day of voting in the nationwide plebiscite on constitutional amendments. Adding the captcha test to the site disabled automatic downloads of the constitutional plebiscite results.
On Russia’s unified voting day on September 13, the website issued a separate captcha test for the webpages of each individual polling station. This made it much more difficult for election observers and independent experts to collect official data. On September 23, Pamfilova apologized for the difficulties working with the Central Election Commission’s database and instructed Popov to remove the captcha tests.
According to Popov’s explanation, the captcha tests were required to protect the website from “crazy bots,” which, on election day, “load the portal so that all its computing power only works” for them. Popov claimed that in 61 percent of cases, the bots come from “the American continent, North and South America.”