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05.12.2021, . 12:23


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Section II: Election Day Concerns

On Election Day, IFES assessed election procedures in eight locations within Russia: Moscow City and Oblast, Tver, Tatarstan, Omsk, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg, and Volgograd. While IFES overall perception of election officials and the election process was positive (especially the professionalism of election officials, the sense of pride they exhibited in their efforts and the importance they placed on carrying out their functions in a proper and fair manner), IFES assessment teams reported irregularities ranging from removal of ballots from polling sites by voters to family voting to discrepancies in the vote count in several locations.

This section concentrates on weaknesses and violations of electoral norms. However, IFES contends that, on the whole, these were minor infractions and conduct with significant fraudulent intent was not observed. Given the vast numbers of people involved in the conduct of elections, innocent mistakes will be made during the course of an election. For election commissioners at all levels, the importance is to minimize the mistakes and ensure that that they are not of a magnitude that would call for invalidation of results. Possible areas in which those with less than noble intentions can exploit weaknesses in the election process that can impact election results need to be reviewed, and, if necessary, tightened to preclude these possibilities.

One overarching concern that IFES noted throughout its election assessment effort was the lack of standardization in the administration of elections throughout the country and an uncertainty on the part of election administrators as to proper procedures and conduct. IFES' findings with regard to Election Day irregularities follow below.

V. The Ballot

The CEC is responsible for the accountability and protection of ballots for the Duma election. Most ballots for both single-mandate districts and for proportional party lists are printed at the SEC level. After ballots have been printed and handed over to the TECs, all rejected and surplus ballots are destroyed. A record is drawn up by the printing house and signed by all election commission members present to certify that all surplus ballots have been destroyed. A ballot transfer document is drawn up between the SEC and the TEC in the presence of the DEC indicating the number of ballots to be transferred and the time of transfer. Ballots are transferred to the PEC no later than four days prior to the election. For a ballot to be certified, two members of the PEC are required to sign all ballots and place the election commission's seal in the upper right of the ballot.

At 100% of the polling station IFES visited before and on Election Day, our representatives observed, and election commissioners confirmed, that all ballots were pre-stamped with the precinct seal and signed by two PEC members (this is a legal practice). As cited in IFES' Pre-Election Technical Assessment Report for the 1999 Duma election, this practice is troublesome, because the ballots, once signed and stamped, are valid. While, in most instances, the signed and stamped ballots were locked safely until election day, IFES representatives noted that on election day ballots were easily accessible at many polling stations during voting and even during the vote count. These are valid ballots, and with accessibility, unscrupulous persons could take enough ballots, mark them, and put them in the ballot box and impact the results of the election for that polling station. If the same tactics are used in enough polling stations, the results could sway local, district and even federal elections.

IFES did note that efforts were made to improve the quality of the ballots by allowing each Subject to print it in various forms, either with or without color, or with or without microprinting. This is an improvement in itself that follows previous IFES recommendations. The copying of ballots, as it occurred in the Karacheavo-Cherkassia Republic, for example, is made much more difficult simply by adding color to the ballot.

Another issue worth noting is the sizing of and spacing on the ballot that is issued. Had the Supreme Court decided to allow for both LDPR and the Zhirinovsky Bloc to be on the ballot on election day, one can only begin to imagine the legal issues and the administrative nightmare of having to add a party on the proportional ballot when there was no space on the ballot for such an addition. In cases of uncertainty, printing the ballot with additional space when it's obvious some candidacies are pending resolution, may be worth the expense.

For Consideration

The integrity of the ballot is sacrosanct. Every effort must be made to ensure that only official valid ballots are used in the election. Moreover, only ballots cast by eligible voters should be counted. After a review of current practices, a determination might be made regarding the following strategies:

- The paper used in ballot printing allows for fraudulent duplication due to the absence of any specifications in the law concerning paper quality. Article 71 of the Duma Elections Law expressly states that ballots cannot be numbered and that the printing should be in black and white. These specifications limit what can be done to prevent duplication of ballot papers. The use of watermark paper would reduce the risk of fraud but watermarked paper is rather expensive. What could be used instead is micro printing. Realizing that ballots are printed throughout the Russian Federation, the CEC could encourage all SECs to use micro printing where it is available. This would not cover the entire Russian Federation but could be used in all the large population centers accounting for a high percentage of voters. In addition, while uniformity of the ballot is important, the non-availability of micro printing in one area of the country would most likely not be noticed by voters on election day. Micro prints are generally not visible to the untrained eye.
- Special packaging of ballots or binding with rubber glue would also provide officials with better control. Special packaging in groups of 100 or 500 ballots would provide a more accurate and easier count when verifying the number of ballots during transfers. Also, on polling day the members of the PEC would have a better control on the number of uncertified ballots.
- A transfer record for each point of ballot transfer from the printing organization to the TEC down to the PEC should show two signatures of the persons receiving the ballots, an exact count and verification of the number of ballots received and the time the transfer took place. The law does not mention that signatures should be put on the transfer record. However, the CEC requires that all transfer records be signed by three persons. Appropriate security personnel should be involved during all phases of ballot transport and storage.
- Modify the practice of PEC members stamping the PEC seal and signing all the ballots prior to Election Day. Instead, stamp the PEC seal and have only one PEC member signature on each ballot prior to Election Day. Only when a ballot is to be issued to an eligible voter should a PEC member add the second required signature, making the ballot valid.
- If significant doubt exits regarding the number of candidates to be listed on the ballot due to the intricacies of the registration process (e.g. when cases are pending in the Supreme Court), the CEC may have to establish a ballot which allows for a candidate to be added to the ballot at the last minute. The preferred method for this is to have a stamp or a sticker that can be added, although such solutions are only favored in extreme cases. For example, in the South African Presidential elections of April 1994, M'Buthelezi was reinstated as a candidate only three weeks before the election. His followers did not cause additional civil disturbances, as they were satisfied with the addition of the candidate with a sticker at the bottom of the ballot. In this case, the Independent Election Commission had printed a longer ballot with extra space in response to the situation.

VI. The Voter List

The provision in current election laws allowing voters to be added to the voter list prior to and on Election Day is very helpful toward the enfranchisement of all eligible voters. However, in IFES' assessment of election commissions in six regions, we noted the difficulty of producing accurate voter lists at the polling stations due to the increased mobility of Russians. In addition, the commissioners working with the voter lists that have been compiled by local authorities are changing, and the new commissioners may not be properly trained to do a thorough and accurate job.

Most voters presented their passport for voting, but IFES observed a variety of other documents presented to precinct election commissioners, who appeared at times to make arbitrary decisions regarding the eligibility of these people to vote. In numerous polling stations the voter list had been detached into separate sheets. At one polling station, one page of the voter list was given to a voter, who then took it and left for 10-15 minutes before returning to the polling station. The person was then allowed to vote. There were several cases in which the IFES teams were not allowed to look at the voter list. More often, however, IFES' teams were allowed to look at the voter list, but it was sometimes difficult to understand the meaning of notations used from polling station to polling station.

For Consideration

The purpose of the voter list is to ensure that eligible voters are the only ones who vote in an election. A determination of any shortcomings in the preparation and use of the voter list might be made, and the following actions contemplated:

- Create a national computerized voter registry to update the voter list at each polling station and ensure that a voter is not on more than one voter list.
- Revise the procedures for compiling the voter list to take into account the fact more and more Russians are moving and moving more often.
- Improve the training for election commissioners so that they will be more effective in confirming the information on the voter list, which has been compiled by local authorities.
- Increase the ease in which voters who have moved can be added to the appropriate voter list and deleted from other voter lists.

VII. Conduct at the Polls

In general, the conduct of the polls was adequate. One outstanding feature that Western democracies could emulate is the pride election commissioners have in being chosen for their roles. They are formally dressed, and they have made real efforts to make their polling stations attractive and pleasant for voters. At one polling station, the PEC handed out books to all first-time, 18-year-old voters. This was an excellent gesture to welcome and congratulate new voters, and to provide a positive experience for first-time voters. In addition, the PECs obviously tried very hard to conduct the election at their polling station in accordance with the laws, directives, manuals and instructions that they received. Voters, too, took voting as a serious responsibility.

Local Authorities in the Election Process

Local authorities were pleasant when things were going as expected, but became intimidating when the unexpected occurred. At two polling stations IFES representatives entered, the PEC members became nervous as they reviewed the international observer identification cards. They made a point of introducing the local authorities who were present, and responding to questions within their hearing range. At these same polling stations, the local authorities tried very hard to learn the day's itineraries for IFES representatives,3 and failing to gain this information, had the police follow them after they left their respective polling stations.

At one Territorial Election Commission the local authorities were obviously in control. In fact, one of them proudly announced that he had personally trained all the PEC members in the territory, and therefore knew that all the procedures would be followed properly. The TEC Chairman consulted with this person regularly during two separate periods when IFES representatives were in attendance.

For Consideration

Interference on the part of governmental authorities, political parties or other entities must be prohibited in democratic elections. Voters observing the control and intimidation of the election commissioners by the local authorities may conclude that the election is not being conducted in a free and fair manner. Therefore, the role of government authorities in elections may need to be further clarified.

- A review of the election laws and training election commissioners on the appropriate roles of local authorities may be needed.
- In some situations, election commissioners may need additional assistance, in which case it might be logical to recruit from the government authorities. However, any such assistance should be clearly delineated with the election commissioners in charge, and government representatives subservient to the election commissioners.
- The role of government representatives in the election process needs to be made clear to all voters and the public, so there can be no misunderstandings. Otherwise, the public may deem the election commissioners mere puppets of the authorities and the election a fraud.

Observers and Transparency in the Election Process

In almost all polling stations where IFES representatives were present, there were political association and candidate observers. The majority of these local observers were sitting in a row of chairs where, as much as possible, they did not obstruct election activities. At some polling stations, the observers were situated so they could see almost everything, but at others, they could see only a portion. On the whole, observers appeared passive, reading a book, napping, taking a cigarette break, and sitting without being alert. When asked why they were not more alert, they explained that they thought the elections were being conducted properly. They did not appear diligent in their assignments, so their ability to detect voter fraud is questionable.

At times, especially after the polls were closed, PEC chairpersons, in addition to consulting with other PEC members or more often not consulting with them at all, would confer with observers on particular procedures or whether a particular ballot should be valid or invalid.

For Consideration

People must have confidence that elections are conducted freely and fairly, or they will not have faith in the process. The secrecy of the ballot is sacrosanct, and sufficient security measures need to be in place to prevent election fraud. Within that context, the election process needs to be as transparent as possible. Toward that end, the following steps might be implemented:

- Create a voter education program to inform voters and the general public about all aspects of the election. Invite them to observe each step.
- In the training program for election commissioners, include a section on common methods of voter fraud and how to prevent and detect them.
- Revise the training program for election commissioners so they are more cognizant of the «dos» and «don'ts» of observers (e.g. they should not consult with observers about questionable ballots.)

Encourage candidates and political parties to better train their observers to be more alert and effective.

Conflicts between Federal and Local Election Laws

Election Commissioners from SEC's to PEC's complained about the difficulty they had when federal and local election laws were in conflict. One Subject Election Commission Chairman stated that they had to decide which law applied on a case by case basis. At the PEC level, the commissioners generally chose to follow local laws. For example, when IFES representatives asked to accompany the mobile ballot box at a couple of polling stations, the teams were told they could not, because according to the local election laws, permission from the TEC had to be obtained at least the day before the election. At one polling station, IFES representatives were told they could not stay after the polls were closed, because, according to local election laws, they did not register in advance.

In a few cases, after consulting with the laws, election manuals, and other available documents, rather than clarifying the situation, the election commissioners became more confused. This was especially true in trying to determine how to complete the protocols. In the end, the one law or directive that was the most understandable and/or easiest to implement was usually the one chosen.

For Consideration

Essential to the proper conduct of elections are laws that do not conflict and are written clearly, so there can be no misinterpretation leading to their misapplication. Manuals and training curricula must be based on these laws, being careful not to go beyond the laws. To clarify current confusion, the following steps may be helpful:

- Modify training of election commissioners to make it clear that where there are conflicts, federal laws and directives take precedence over local laws and directives.
- Improve written instructions, election manuals and other documents to make them easier for election commissioners to understand. For example, this could be made by having a separate booklet for election day activities and for vote count and transmittal, with each training manual containing: an index, graphics, flow charts of decisions, a «Basic Q & A» section, simple and direct language, phone numbers and guidance as to where to get help, a «What if» case study of real examples (e.g., what if the person has no ID and wants to vote), as well as a feedback form to be completed by the user and compiled after the election process for future improvements.

Polling Station Size and Voting Booths

In every region IFES assessed, there were polling stations that were too small to accommodate the voters in that precinct. Voters were very patient, waiting as long as two hours in and around the polling station, to sign in and get their ballots. Having received their ballots, however, voters were sometimes no longer willing to wait to vote. Oftentimes, there were insufficient voting booths even in large polling stations. These conditions fostered more than one person in a voting booth as well as many voters using tables, ledges, and anything else they could to mark their ballots. Insufficient voting booths also encouraged the return of family and group voting, and consultations with relatives, friends, party representatives and/or others prior to voters marking their ballots. In fact, voting in the open and in groups, in many places appeared to be the norm.

For Consideration

The combination of crowded conditions and voters voting openly rather than in the secrecy of voting booths provide opportunities for unfair influence on voters, negative experiences for voters, a callous view of elections, and, even worse, public lack of confidence in the results of the election. An analysis may be needed to determine means to improve these conditions, such as:

- Finding larger spaces for polling stations.
- Re-drawing the precinct lines to increase the number of precincts, and thus increasing the number of polling stations.
- Encouraging people to vote during non peak times, so there will be fewer people in the morning when the polling stations are the most crowded.
- Increasing the number of voting booths, perhaps using smaller, lighter booths that are less expensive, take up less room, and are easier to assemble and disassemble.

Voting Outside Assigned Polling Stations

Mobile Ballot Box Voting

This particular aspect of the voting process was fraught with election violations, although it is not clear that these violations resulted in fraud. Certainly, the opportunity for fraud exists using this voting mechanism. In some cases, observers were not allowed to accompany the mobile ballot boxes. In others, political party observers were asked to take the place of one of the two PEC members required to accompany the mobile ballot boxes to voters. In almost every situation where IFES representatives accompanied mobile ballot boxes, there was no privacy for the voters when they voted. Granted, in many instances, the voters were elderly and could not read too well, and thus relied on the assistance of others to read and mark the ballots. The worst cases were those in which the voter, with the assistance of relatives, voted in front of everyone present - PEC members, local observers, and international observers.

Of major concern were the relatively high number of requests for mobile voting in some polling stations - as much as 11% of the number of voters on the voter list. In close elections, this percentage could tip the vote decisively in one direction.

For example, at one polling station with 1,410 voters, there were already 94 requests for mobile voting, and another 60 requests were anticipated based on the experience of previous elections. The probability that mobile ballots boxes could be brought to all 154 voters before 8 p.m. is almost impossible. Between transportation, reviewing documents, completing forms, and marking ballots, it would take 30 to 40 hours for these 154 voters vote. With only two or three mobile ballot boxes and starting out after the long lines of voters had diminished, the PEC members could not get to every dwelling in time. Thus, if the records show that all of these ballots were cast, at least some of them would have had to be fraudulent.

At one polling station with four mobile ballot boxes (note: the federal law only allows a polling station to have three ballot boxes), during one round of mobile voting, two of the mobile ballot boxes were accompanied by one PEC member and one observer. The PEC Chairman decided on this course, because the remaining PEC members were needed to assist with the large numbers of voters at the polling station. The alternatives would have been to either to not go to all the voters who requested mobile voting or to risk chaos at the polling station.

For Consideration

Mobile ballot box voting, carried over from Soviet days, certainly contributes to high voter participation. The effort to include homebound voters in elections is highly commendable. As currently practiced however, there is too much opportunity for voter fraud. After a review the procedures for mobile ballot box voting, needed changes may be identified, such as:

- One possible change might be to have additional PEC members, whose only responsibility would be overseeing the mobile ballot box voting.
- Another suggestion is that mobile voting conditions be more limited to ensure that only those needing the service receive it and limit the numbers of votes cast this way.

Absentee Voting Certificates

PEC members appeared to be confused about their duties when presented with absentee voting certificates. Other than the inordinate amount of time it took, two of our IFES representatives who are Russian nationals had no difficulty getting their absentee voting certificates. Each of them went to a different polling station in the same Subject. Each of them was given a federal ballot and a single-mandate district ballot when they should have only received the federal ballot. Each of them challenged the ballots they received. One specifically stated that at his home polling station, he was informed that he would receive only the federal ballot. The other voter insisted that the election commissioner check with higher authorities. In both cases, the commissioners were definite that two ballots should be issued to voters with absentee voting certificates. Only ballots for lower election contests were not to be issued to them. In addition, the manner in which unused absentee voting certificates were handled was inconsistent. Some election commissioners ignored them, others counted them, yet others counted them and then invalidated them.

For Consideration

The inclusion of voters who are away from their precincts contributes toward the enfranchisement of all voters. Proper management of this process is essential as the opportunity for fraud is high. In deliberating the need for any changes, the following list might be referred to:

- Improve the instruction manuals and training programs so that election commissioners can more easily follow the laws for the issuance of the absentee voting certificates and the issuance of ballots to voters who present such certificates.
- Improve the instruction manuals and training programs for the accountability of the absentee voting certificates from the point where the commissions receive them through to their disposition at the end of Election Day.

Voting Beyond the Borders of the Russian Federation

IFES had representatives assess the election process for the Duma elections in 12 countries (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Yemen, Armenia, Georgia, and the United States). In the United States, six polling stations were assessed: Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Cleveland, and New York.

Overall, the elections outside the Russian Federation were conducted fairly well. Generally, one or more embassy or consulate official constituted the PEC along with Russian nationals living in the cities where the polling stations were located. There were a few places where the polling stations were too small, but none were chaotic or in disarray as was the case in some polling stations within the country. PEC members used their ingenuity in their attempts to provide every opportunity to voters. A restaurant was used as a polling station. Another polling station was at a hotel. Many PECs provided information about the election, including the date, time, and place for voting to newspapers read by many Russians. However, better efforts could have been made to inform Russian voters (it was noted, for example, that no sustained effort was made to inform Russians that were studying abroad of their voting rights) that were not in Russia on the day of the elections with regard to their voting rights and the procedures required to facilitate their vote. In all cases, people who presented valid passports were allowed to vote. Absentee voting certificates were not required. In one country, mobile ballot box voting was conducted in a city miles away.

There were minor differences in the interpretation of election laws, since they had to rely on their readings of the election laws, directive, manuals and other documents from the CEC.

The voters who were disenfranchised were those who were not within commuting distance of a polling station.

For Consideration

This is another laudable attempt to include all eligible voters in the election process. The number of Russians traveling abroad will probably increase, and thus procedures to allow them to vote may need to be amended. For example:

- Provide better information to Russian voters who are abroad on the day of an election.

Campaign Materials in Vicinity of Polling Stations

At several polling stations, campaign materials were seen near or even in the polling stations (this practice was pervasive in areas where local authorities were supporting a specific party list). In one polling station, a seemingly innocuous calendar with a large «19»was hanging at the entrance. A closer examination revealed that, in fact, it was a campaign poster made to look like a calendar. The calendar/poster was for the political association that was #19 on the ballot. Such displays so near or in polling stations could have undue influence on how voters vote, as they are the last things voters see before getting their ballots.

For Consideration

For the same reason that campaigning the last 24 hours before election day is banned, campaign posters and other materials near and/or in polling stations may unfairly influence voters. Some thought might be given to making the ban more comprehensive. In that deliberation, the following might be included:

- Within 24 hours of Election Day, remove all campaign materials within 100 meters of each polling station. The PECs could perform this task, or under its supervision, the appropriate government department could be given this assignment.
- Another option is to inform the campaigns where the polling stations are located and require the campaigns to remove their own materials no later than 24 hours before Election Day.

Ballot Count and Transmittal of Results

Ballot counting becomes more and more complicated as the number of elections on a given Election Day increase. IFES representatives were at one polling station with five elections to count. Between the vote count and the completion of the protocols, precinct election commissioners did not leave until 6:30 a.m. It would have been considerably later if the ballots had been re-counted to verify the first vote counts of each election. In polling stations having seven elections to count, the commissioners did not complete their work until even later.

At all polling stations where IFES was present at the poll closing, except for the PEC Chairman and Secretary, PEC members were involved with sorting the ballots. One or two PEC members counted the ballots, and one PEC member recorded the results. Each ballot was not shown to those present, nor was the vote cast announced to all observers as proscribed in the Law. Following these provisions would have likely doubled the amount of time needed to count the ballots. In most cases, observers were allowed to get close enough to the ballots so they could see for themselves how the ballots were marked and which stacks the ballots were being placed. IFES representatives at one polling station noted that in stacking the voted ballots for the party list for the State Duma election, there was not much difference between the two highest stacks. Yet, the election commissioners counting the ballots reported that there was a large difference between the top vote getter and the one coming in second. No one questioned this apparent discrepancy.

In general, questionable ballots were set aside. IFES representatives did not observe any PEC voting as a group on the validity of these ballots. Instead, the PEC chairman, oftentimes consulting with observers and/or local authorities, would arbitrarily determine the validity of each questionable ballot. In comparing notes, IFES representatives present at polling stations found that the decisions made appeared to be arbitrary.

Further complicating this entire process is the completion of the protocols. The protocols are difficult to fill out. There is also the additional stress caused by the need to have the numbers «match,» or the entire protocol is rejected by the «SAS Vybory» computer vote counting system. PEC members, especially the chairmen and secretaries, made valiant attempts to complete the protocols properly, but they were tired from a long, stressful day and, in the end, some corners might have been cut to make sure that the numbers matched.

For Consideration

Experience, worldwide, has shown that counting ballots by hand is inaccurate. Mistakes will be further compounded by the fatigue factor, a natural result of a long day trying to properly conduct an election. Asking 9 to 12 exhausted election commissioners to, in a timely manner, accurately count over 1,000 ballots at the end of a long day is asking a lot. Compound this difficulty with multiple elections necessitating a concomitant increase in the number of ballots, as was the case in many jurisdictions during the Duma elections, and the task becomes near impossible.

Accounting for all ballots issued is another key element in a democratic election. The completion of the protocols by the PECs is the means to accomplish this important task. As with ballot counting, protocols are filled in at the end of a very long day by the most fatigued PEC members, the Chairperson and Secretary. The protocols serve not only as the means to account for all ballots issued, but also the means to report the official vote count. PEC protocols are brought to their respective TECs, and the numbers are entered into the computer system. At the TEC level, the ballots are accounted for and vote counts transmitted using the «SAS Vybory» computer vote count system.

A review of these essential elements of the election process, that is the reconciliation of the ballots and the vote count and their transmittal, would likely result in the identification of areas that need change or improvement. These could include the following factors:

- Computerize of the vote count system. In the alternative, increase the number of people counting the ballots.
- Separate the reporting documents for ballot reconciliation and vote count. One set of protocols should exist for the accounting of ballots and one set for the overall vote count. Note: if the vote count system is computerized, then the PECs would have no vote count protocols to complete.
- For election night reporting, simplify the protocols for ballot accounting. Perhaps, the protocols should be done in a two-step process. The first step would be to report the number of valid ballots counted for each choice in each election. These numbers could be transmitted to the TEC immediately, where they would be entered into the «SAS Vybory» computer vote count system. The «SAS Vybory» system would need to be modified to accommodate this simplified two- step reporting process. The second step would be the complete reconciliation of the ballots issued to the PEC.
- Improve the training for ballot counting and reconciliation of ballots issued.

Improve the instruction manuals and include clear step-by-step illustrations for ballot counting and ballot reconciliation.

VIII. Lack of Standardization

From the registration of candidates to the transmittal of election results, IFES noted the lack of standardization of election procedures on the part of election commissioners. This was confirmed in interviews with more than 100 individuals and organizations that IFES conducted in the eight regions in which IFES carried out assessments. Earlier in this report, we cite the seemingly arbitrary manner in which candidates were disqualified, citizens without passports were determined to be eligible or ineligible to vote, and ballots with uncertain markings were deemed to be valid or invalid. The varying practices that were encountered certainly indicate a lack of standard training of election officials at their respective levels. As previously noted: election officials used different notations on the voter list to indicate voter status; some polling stations were well organized and orderly, while others appeared chaotic with election officials and voters not knowing what to do; many PEC officials did not know what to do when a voter wanted a second ballot because the voter's first ballot was damaged; and, the manner in which mobile ballot box voting was conducted differed from polling station to polling station.

Lack of standardization was due, in part, to the following:

- Differences between local and federal election laws. Most of the time, election commissioners at the SEC and lower levels chose to follow the local election laws. For example, some IFES representatives were informed by PEC chairmen that they could not accompany the mobile ballot box because they had not received prior permission as required by local election laws directly in contrast to federal election laws.

Difficulty understanding the laws and election manual when trying to make a decision in unusual situations. This was especially true when election commissioners were trying to complete the protocols. All the laws, manuals and other materials are only provided in the Russian language. For election commissioners whose first language is not Russian, the problem is compounded, even though the commissioners tried very hard to interpret them.

For Consideration

In order to ensure a more effective and standardized administration of elections in Russia, the following suggestions should be considered:

- The election manual published by the CEC and provided to all election commissions needs to be revised to make it easier for election commissioners to find the section they need. Perhaps, for the more difficult activities, large sheets with detailed instructions and graphic representations should be produced and distributed.

The election manual should be revised to make it easier for election commissioners to understand what they are supposed to do in different Election Day situations. Perhaps clearer writing and step-by-step illustrations would help.

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