Voters across Russia handed a sweeping victory to President Vladimir Putin’s allies in a parliamentary election on Sunday. But in two regions Reuters reporters saw inflated turnout figures, ballot-stuffing and people voting more than once at three polling stations. In the Bashkortostan region’s capital Ufa, in the foothills of the Urals, Reuters reporters counted 799 voters casting ballots at polling station number 284. When officials tallied the vote later in the day, they said the turnout was 1,689. At polling station 591 in the Mordovia regional capital of Saransk, about 650 km south-east of Moscow, reporters counted 1,172 voters but officials recorded a turnout of 1,756. A Reuters reporter obtained a temporary registration to vote at that station, and cast a ballot for a party other than the pro-Putin United Russia. During the count, officials recorded that not a single vote had been cast for that party.
Election officials at the stations denied there were violations or count irregularities. It is unlikely that any irregularities at these polling stations would have been on a scale that could have affected the result.
The incidents are only a narrow snapshot of what was happening across Russia’s 11 time zones and thousands of polling stations on an election day that was a test of whether support for Putin and his allies had held up despite a recession and Western sanctions. Reuters was unable to assess independently if such practices were widespread.
Reuters sent reporters to a random sample of 11 polling stations across central and western Russia on polling day, including in and around Moscow. At three of them, there were large discrepancies between the number of voters Reuters reporters counted, and the number that officials recorded. At four of the other eight, there were also some irregularities, including smaller discrepancies in the voter tallies and people saying they had been paid or pressured to vote.