20 Most Typically Asked Questions and Answers
Q. What is on the ballot for the December 17, 1995 election in the Russian Federation?
A. This is a parliamentary election to select all 450 members of the State Duma (lower house of the Russian Parliament) for a four-year term. Half of the Duma seats (225) will be filled by election to single mandate districts, while the other 225 seats will be allocated according to a system of proportional representation (PR). Under the PR system, voters cast their ballots for a political association/bloc's list, and not for individual candidates. There will be two separate ballots, one for voters to choose who they would like to have as a representative in the individual single mandate district, and one to make a choice among the electoral association/blocs fielding candidates.
Q. For the 225 single mandate districts, how is the winner determined?
A. The winner is the candidate with the highest vote tally (plurality); there are no run-off elections. There are approximately 2,700 candidates running for the 225 single mandate seats, which average 12 candidates per district (some districts have up to 30 candidates, others only two). The winner in each of the 225 single mandate districts will be separately declared by each District (Constituency) Electoral Commission.
Q. How are the 225 mandates on the party (federal) list determined?
A. There are 43 electoral associations/blocs (i.e. political parties) competing on the federal list with a total of 5,675 candidates. Each electoral association/bloc fields an election list of up to 270 candidates. The electoral association/bloc determines the order of candidates on their list, but only the top three candidates' names are actually printed on the ballot. Each list contains 12 federal candidates while the remaining candidates must represent various regions. Only those electoral associations/blocs which receive a minimum of 5% of the total votes cast are eligible to be seated in the Duma.
The results of the federal list voting will be tabulated nationally by the CEC. Any electoral association/bloc passing the 5% threshold will gain seats in the new Duma. The number of seats will be divided proportionally among the electoral associations/blocs. For example, if a party gets 9% of the vote, that party will get 9% of the 225 party list seats or 20 seats. In this example, the electoral association/bloc would distribute the first 12 seats to the federal list; leaving 8 seats to distribute among the regional party lists according to a mathematical formula.
The formula provides for the total number of votes polled by the electoral association/bloc in regions where it ran list candidates to be divided by the number of regional seats to be allotted (in this case 8 seats). For example, suppose an electoral bloc ran candidates lists in three regions: A, B, and С and gained the following number of votes in each respective region:
Region A: 150,000
Region В: 75,000
Region С: 300,000
In total, the electoral bloc received 525,000 votes (which, in our example, was 9% of the of the vote allotting 20 seats). This electoral bloc would give 12 seats to the federal list and the remaining 8 would be divided between these three regions according to the formula below:
A + В + С = 525.000 = 65,625
Therefore, each is awarded a Duma seat for every 65,625 votes received in the region for this electoral bloc.
Region A: 150,000 divided by 65,625 = 2.28 or 2 seats
Region В: 75,000 divided by 65,625 = 1.16 or 1 seat
Region С: 300,000 divided by 65.625 = 4.5 or 5 seats
Because many parties are not expected to cross the 5% threshold, those undistributed mandates will be reallocated among successful electoral associations/blocs, thereby increasing the victors' proportional share above the election outcome percentages.
Q. Is it allowed for a candidate to compete for a single mandate district seat and to be included on an electoral association/bloc's federal list?
A. Yes. A candidate may be registered with an electoral association/bloc's federal list and be registered at the same time in one of the single mandate electoral districts. If a candidate wins a single mandate seat, his/her name is dropped from the association/bloc's federal list.
Q. How many voters are eligible to participate in the December 17 election?
Q. Is absentee voting permitted and who is eligible?
A. Yes. Absentee, or early voting, is allowed in person (not by mail) at the Territorial Election Commissions starting 15 days before election day through four days prior;
absentee voting is allowed at all precincts beginning three days before the election and ending the day prior to election day. Anyone who expects to be away from their place of residence is entitled to vote early at either his/her Territorial or Precinct Election Commission.
Q. Besides the two separate national ballots, will voting occur for any other offices?
A. In some regions elections for governor and mayor are being held concurrently and in these locations there will be separate ballots for each of these races).
Q. How many members sit on the Central Election Commission (CEC) and how were they appointed?
A. There are 15 members of the Central Election Commission; five each are appointed by the President, Duma and Federation Council. The three leadership positions of Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary are selected by secret ballot cast by the 15 members. This new commission was formed in March 1995. (Previously, the CEC was comprised of 21 members, all appointed by the president).
Q. Who is allowed to be an election observer and where may they observe?
A. Observers representing candidates and electoral associations/blocs, as well as international observers and mass media representatives, are entitled to be present at polling stations during voting, counting of the votes, and drafting of the election results protocols. Observers are entitled to access the third copy of the protocols from each level of election commission.
Although observers are technically allowed to be present at each level of election commission, space limitations could make it physically difficult to accommodate observers at the Territorial, District, and Subject level election commissions. Observers may not interfere with the work of these commissions; use common sense if crowded conditions arise, perhaps rotating various observers into the tabulation areas of the upper level commissions. The CEC in Moscow has set up a central election results release location at the Parliamentary Center, Tsvetnoy Bulvar, Bldg.2.
Q. What are the levels of election commission?
A. For Duma elections, there are five levels of election commissions:
The Central Election Commission (CEC); 89 Subject (Republics, Oblasts, Krais, etc.) Election Commissions; 225 District (Constituency) Election Commissions; 2,700 Territorial (cities, rayons, villages, etc.) Election Commissions; and 93,000 Precinct Election Commissions.
Q. How are the ballots tabulated and election results transmitted up the election commission hierarchy?
A. Ballots are tabulated manually at each of the 93,000 precincts and results are compiled on precinct protocol forms. Ballots and protocol forms are then transmitted to one of the assigned 2700 Territorial Electoral Commissions (TECs). Typically between 50-100 precincts report to a TEC. The TECs calculate the vote totals from precinct protocols and transmit the cumulative results to the appropriate District Election Commission (DECs -225 constituencies). The DECs are responsible for declaring the winner of their single mandate electoral seat.
Each DEC transmits cumulative vote totals of both the single mandate district and the federal list balloting to one of 89 Subject Election Commissions (SECs) (in less populated areas the SEC is joined with the DEC). Finally, the accumulated vote totals are transmitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Moscow.
Q. Who is entitled to copies of election results?
A. The first copy of the protocol is taken to the assigned Territorial Election Commission (TEC). The second copy of the protocol remains with the Precinct Election Commission (PEC). All categories of observers are entitled to access what is called the «third copy» of the election results «protocol» form. Additionally, the CEC issued a regulation (No. 54/484-II) on December 7, 1995 recommending that the protocols be posted at each precinct for public review.
Q. What is the State Automated System (SAS) for accumulating vote totals?
A. The CEC is in the process of installing a nationwide system of computers linked together to transmit calculative election results up the election commission hierarchy. Called the State Automated System (SAS), this computerized ballot accumulation system was mandated by Presidential decree in August 1994 in order to increase both the speed and the accuracy of reporting election returns. Although ballot counting will still occur manually at all 93,000 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs), the election results
(protocols) for the PECs will be data entered into computer terminals at the approximately 2,700 Territorial Election Commissions (TECs).
The decree requires complete installation of the SAS by March 1996; however, the CEC is ahead of schedule and plans to test the system in the majority of the Republics, Oblasts, and regions of the Russian Federation for the December 17, 1995 election. In accordance with the newly adopted Duma Election Law (Art. 66), the SAS computations of cumulative results, if used for the Duma election, will be experimental only, in order to compile a «quick count» of election results. Official election results, by law, must be compiled as in past elections.
Q. When will election results be released?
A. UNOFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS: Unofficial cumulative results are expected to begin to be reported at 11 p.m. Moscow time after the polls in the farthest western area of Kaliningrad close. The early results will from the far eastern regions of the Russian Federation. The CEC expects a significant percentage of the votes to be reported by late in the evening of December 18. TECs are required by law to report the accumulated vote total of the precincts in their territory within three days.
OFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS: By law, the CEC and DECs must publish their results no later than one month after the election (January 17, 1995).
Q. Is there a voter turnout requirement to validate the election results?
A. Yes. The minimum voter turnout threshold is 25%. For the 225 seats allocated to the electoral associations/blocs by proportional representation, the 25% is based on overall national voter turnout. If the voter turnout threshold is met and at least one electoral assocation/bloc exceeds 5% of the total votes cast, these 225 seats will be distributed according to the formula cited above.
For the 225 single mandate district seats, the voter turnout is determined separately in each district. If any district falls below 25%, the election to that seat is declared null and void and repeat elections must be conducted.
Q. When must campaigning end?
A. According to the election law, candidates, electoral associations/blocs, and political campaigns must cease campaign activity by midnight on December 15.
Q. How much free media time is allotted to candidates and electoral associations?
A. Each of the 43 electoral associations/blocs on the ballot is entitled to one hour of free television time (broken down into 7.5 minute increments). Additionally, an allotment of free radio time and print media space is also provided for in the election law.
Q. May candidates and electoral associations augment their free media time with paid advertisement?
A. YES. CEC regulations stipulate that paid advertising cannot exceed the amount of free media time.
Q. What are the campaign finance requirements?
A. The new Duma election law requires electoral associations/blocs and candidates for single mandate districts to establish special election accounts in the state bank. All receipts and expenditures for the campaign must go through these election funds, and total spending is limited by law. Account activity is reported to and monitored by the CEC and DECs. Electoral associations/blocs and candidates may receive funds allocated to them by election commissions, and may also receive donations from individuals and legal entitities subject to specified limitations.
Q. How will the members of the Federation Council (upper house of the Russian Federal Assembly or parliament) be selected?
A. There are 178 seats in the Federation Council - two for each of the country's 89 republics oblasts, krais, okrugs and autonomous republics. After numerous earlier drafts were rejected, a new law on the formation of the Federation Coucil was finally approved on December 7, 1995, five days before the constitutional end of the term of the current Federation Council. The new law allows the present members of this chamber (the executive and legislative heads of Russia's 89 republics and regions) to remain in place, provided they run for election by the end of 1996. Of the region's executives, 58 were directly appointed by Yeltsin and have not yet stood for election.