Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Call Center to Field Complaints from Voters

Voters will be able to report campaign violations and voting irregularities in upcoming State Duma and presidential elections to call centers nationwide, Public Chamber members said Friday.

Voter hotlines will open in all 86 regions as of Nov. 1 in a program that lawyer and Public Chamber member Anatoly Kucherena helped create.

Opposition politicians and federal election officials were highly skeptical, however, as to how effective such popular election monitoring could be in ensuring a fair vote in the Dec. 2 Duma elections and March presidential vote.

After receiving a report of a violation, a call center, via a state-connected organization called the Free Elections Foundation, is to relay the incident to the Central Elections Commission.

"The Central Elections Commission must react to a voter's complaint in one hour," Kucherena said at a news conference Friday.

But Kucherena noted that "a reaction" from the commission means only informing a voter how and when his complaint can be resolved.

Commission member Yevgeny Kolyushin said one hour would be a "tough" deadline to meet.

"Of course, it won't be possible to react in one hour on many violations," Kolyushin said.

He also doubted the effectiveness of the hotlines, saying election officials sometimes react immediately and "sometimes procrastinate."

Communist Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin questioned whether, from a logistical standpoint, call centers could even be set up in all 86 regions, as well as their objective assessment of violations.

"Officials at local elections commissions are ... controlled by United Russia, and they won't react to violations," Ilyukhin said.

The Free Elections Foundation opened a national hotline in January, and hotlines in each of the seven federal districts have been operating as of Sept. 17, the organization said. So far, they have registered around 2,000 appeals, Public Chamber member Andrei Przhezdomsky, the organization's chief, told the news conference.

Current election laws bar independent election monitors, stipulating that they must be affiliated with or hired by a registered political party.

Also Friday, Kucherena said he would set up a new organization to monitor rights abuses in Europe and the United States. He said the organization would be based in Brussels or Germany. He did not say how it would be funded.

He said he decided to set to the organization after receiving letters from Russians in Europe and the United States complaining about rights violations.