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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Watching A Count With Ufa Observers

UFA, Bashkortastan -- The vote count at polling station 793 in Bashkir capital of Ufa started with a small disaster.

An election commission member spilled a glass of water over some 570 ballots that had just been dumped out of two big wooden ballot boxes and spread over a huge table.

But the information remained legible, and after an awkward moment or two, the mysterious ritual of counting votes began.

The doors were locked. Two policemen stood guard. Observers from the Communists, Fatherland-All Russia and Yabloko looked on.

The ballot boxes themselves do not travel outside the polling stations, or at least they didn't at polling station 793, located in the headquarters of Bashkortostan's parliament.

When voting ended at 8 p.m., the first task was to dispose of the unused ballots.

The observers, who had spent 12 hours sitting motionless, volunteered.

It was easy: just cut off a corner of each with scissors to make it invalid.

The count itself took an at times nervy two hours. First the ballots for blocs and parties were taken out of the sealed boxes and divided from the ones with votes for the single-mandate candidates.

They were stacked up in separate piles, one for each party or candidate. Then each election worker took a pile and counted by hand, sitting around a big table.

If the observers, eager to get the results, dared to come too close to the counters, polling station chairman Vadim Kaibyshev asked them to back off, adding that such approaches are distracting and might lead to mistakes in the count.

A ballot with the list of parties and blocs marked in the wrong place puzzled one member of the commission who to clarify the issue had to look it up in the federal law.

Another ballot marked with two signs against one party was also debated.

One candidate left the ballot unmarked but wrote a nostalgic message on the other side of it asking to be returned to the great days of 1983. The commission members decided it was invalid.

Then each pile of the counted ballots was tied up with string and the string was sealed with wax.

A summary of the results of the count was signed by each member of the commission before Kaibyshev and another election worker loaded them in a Zhiguli and drove them to the district's central counting station in the basement of a building belonging to the Bashneft oil company, where they were entered into a computer.