How Many Forgeries?
How could observers be denied protocol copies?
In an interview in Dagestan in April, Natalya, a teacher at a local agricultural school, recounted her experience trying to monitor a precinct in Makhachkala's Kirovsky district.
"I just wanted elections to be fair," said Natalya, who did not want her last name used. She was not a Communist Party member, or a member of any party for that matter, but because the Communists are the big name in elections monitoring she signed up as a Communist observer.
"I was warned that in 1996 ballots were stuffed in boxes in big packets - and that during the last elections, in December, they even replaced the whole ballot box after the voting was over. I told [the precinct officials]: 'I signed my ballot in a special way and I will create a problem for you if I don't find it [during the vote count].' But no, they were not scared. I don't think they are afraid of us."
"When they turned the ballot boxes upside down, there were two big packets of ballots there on the top [i.e. they had been at the bottom of the box at the beginning of the day]. Clearly they had been inserted altogether - and one even had a sheet of paper around it.
"Each [packet] was this thick," Natalya said, indicating with her fingers an imaginary 5-centimeter stack of paper - or perhaps 200 ballots.
"I rushed on them, grabbed both packets and saw they were all filled in for Putin. I pressed them tightly to my chest. The others were astonished. I said, 'Each person must vote separately, these are fake.'"
But Natalya quickly understood she was alone. She said election observers from the Putin camp took the two packets of ballots from her and gave them to the precinct commission head.
"And he just spread them over the pile. They all got mixed together," Natalya said.
And that wasn't all. She said that when the ballots cast for each candidate had been divided into different piles, the stack of votes for Zyuganov was at least 15 centimeters thick. She then watched commission members take about half of those ballots away into another room, with no explanation.
"They simply threw away a big part!" she said. "I am not a Zyuganov supporter. Let Putin win, but let him win fairly and not this way."
"They [territorial commission members] tried to get me drunk on election day," said Abdusalam Magomedov, a private businessman and member of Makhachkala's Leninsky territorial commission, noted foul play in his district. He was also in touch with observers who were stationed at the 23 polling stations that make up the Leninsky district territorial commission. They said the tallies at each of the polling stations were padded. In the district of 71,114 registered voters, observers said that 14,000 votes - or nearly 20 percent of the vote - were forged.