Video of Ballot Feeding Elicits Fraud Accusations

SmenaA screen grab from a video of a woman feeding ballots into a voting machine.
A video showing purported ballot stuffing during the State Duma elections is making its way through the Internet and prompting allegations of electoral fraud from opposition activists.

Election officials and independent monitors, however, said that nothing illegal was revealed in the minute-long video, which shows a bespectacled woman cheerfully sliding ballot after ballot into an electronic ballot box. A caption says it was filmed Sunday at Polling Station No. 730, located in the Otradnoye district in northern Moscow.

The opposition movement Smena posted the video on its site under the headline "Election Falsification."

But Central Elections Commission member Yevgeny Kolyushin said Tuesday that the woman could have merely been inserting into the machine ballots filled in by voters unable to come to the polling station.

"People at home cast their ballots into a portable box, then at the local election commission it's opened and the ballots are entered into the electronic ballot box," Kolyushin said.

Galina Zavodova, director of School No. 240, where the polling station was located, said she witnessed the scene captured on video and saw a young woman filming it. The ballots were from people who had voted at home, Zavodova said by telephone. The ballots were entered into the machine sometime after 8 p.m., she said.

Grigory Melkonyants, deputy head of Golos, an election monitoring group that has criticized Sunday's election as unfair, said election laws stipulated that ballots dropped into portable ballot boxes should subsequently be entered into regular ballot boxes.

Viktoria Galanina, spokeswoman for Central Elections Commission head Vladimir Churov, said this was standard protocol.

After seeing the video for himself, a tired-looking Churov implied in a live interview with Ren-TV early Monday morning that the video was a fake.

As evidence, Churov noted that a security guard who enters the frame midway through the video is wearing an Emergency Situations Ministry uniform. Officers from that ministry should not be guarding polling stations, Churov said.

A Nov. 29 statement posted on the ministry's web site, however, said more than 50,000 firemen and rescue workers would be on duty at polling stations across the country during the election.

Galanina confirmed on Tuesday that Emergency Situations Ministry officers could indeed be on duty at polling stations.