The Practice of Bringing to Justice Members of Election Commissions for Electoral Violations
Conclusions and Recommendations
Administrative penalties that may be levied on members of election commissions are relatively minor in comparison to the severity of their transgressions. Often, holding commission members administratively responsible is indicative of efforts to conceal more serious violations of electoral laws, such as falsification of electoral documents and ballot rigging.
Most of the information presented in the report on the criminal prosecution of commission members is linked to the falsification of election documents in order to increase voter turnout. Requests to increase turnout either come directly from the administration or are encouraged by the practice of rewarding (by means of bonuses) those election commissions that reported the highest voter turnout. Some of the cases presented in the report reference certain “unidentified persons” who, according to trial verdict reports, involved commission members in a crime or organized criminal groups together with commission members.
In cases where perpetrators were prosecuted, they received the most lenient punishment possible. In none of the cases did the perpetrators receive actual jail sentences.
It should also be noted that criminal and administrative cases were brought against commission members only in a small number of instances that offer a reason to suspect that an offense or a crime had been committed. In many cases, refusals to bring charges, or terminations of legal proceedings initiated by prosecutors, are surprising, especially where there is substantial video and physical evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and where obvious investigative actions are not being pursued by the prosecution.
The lack of penalties for massive-scale electoral law and citizen electoral rights violations helps to spread such violations further. Easy avoidance of punishment, as well as the relative lightness of punitive measures, are causes of widespread violations during elections in Russia.
We regret to conclude that judicial and law enforcement systems, and the state in general, underestimate and belittle the high degree of social danger resulting from crimes committed around elections. Election commissions of different levels show a lack of independence in decision making, and commission members act on informal instructions and recommendations that have nothing to do with the current electoral law.
These findings allow “Golos” to offer the following recommendations:
To public authorities vested with the legislative initiative:
• It is necessary to increase fines for administrative offenses related to electoral law violations and to deprive perpetrators of said offenses from the right to work in election commissions of all levels for a period of 5 years.
To election commissions at various levels:
• Do not act on recommendations and informal orders that do not comply with the current electoral law;
• Ensure greater protection of commission members in case of their persecution for refusing to commit illegal acts.
To state judicial and law enforcement bodies:
• Take measures to identify and punish instigators and organizers of crimes committed by election commission members and related to ballot rigging and election results;
• Investigate more conscientiously violations and crimes, based on clear evidence and testimony equality.
See the full report here: PDF (EN)
See the charts of court cases: external link (RU)