Olga Alimova, a secretary of the Saratov branch of the Communist Party, said that 3,040 votes were taken from Gennady Zyuganov, and even more were taken from Yabloko candidate Grigory Yavlinsky. Alimova added that she did not count Yavlinsky's votes, but knew he had lost even more in Saratov than Zyuganov.
The biggest fraud took place at polling station No. 1,172, where Putin got 1,259 votes. At the territorial commission they upped this figure to 1,707. In order to boost Putin's tally, they took 192 votes away from Zyuganov, 70 from Yavlinsky, 50 from Aman Tuleyev, 40 from Konstantin Titov, 31 from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, 30 from the "against everyone" category, 20 from Ella Pamfilova and 9 from Yury Skuratov.
The Communists provided The Moscow Times with the copy of the tally at polling station No. 1,444, where they say the results were altered after the tally got to the territorial commission: The original tally reports 451 votes for Putin, while the forged copy cites the acting president got 622 votes.
Furthermore, the elections commission signatures and the handwriting on the original tally are obviously different from the copy created later.
The Communists also received a number of letters after the elections from regular voters and election observers who claim there was foul play in their district. One of the letters - signed by 55 residents of the Vasilyevka village in the Saratov region's Yershovsky district - says, "We confirm with our signatures that we voted for Zyuganov, Gennady Andreyevich in larger numbers than is written in the protocol [of electoral district No. 551.]"
The protocol said that Zyuganov only got 30 votes.
Another letter signed by 18 residents of the Yuzhny village in the same district protested the election results. All 18 claimed they had voted for Zyuganov, while the official count for the Communist candidate was only five votes.
On the basis of this and other evidence, the Communists have collected pointing to election fraud and forgery, Alimova said the party has filed around 40 lawsuits throughout the Saratov region. "We are prepared to stand up in court for the truth," she said.
Nikolai Lukovenko, head of the Communist Party branch in Saratov's Yershov region, said the heads of local administrations and rural districts really felt the heat to elect the acting president.
"Just before the elections, administration heads and especially the heads of rural districts were told that if Putin and [Saratov Governor Dmitry] Ayatskov do not get through, they may as well not show up at work March 27," Lukovenko wrote in a letter to the Communist Party headquarters in Saratov. "They will be fired and their regions will not get fuel for agricultural needs."
In most of Saratov's rural districts, collective farms are insolvent and people have not received wages for three to six years. Farms are totally dependent on the heads of local administrations to provide them with fuel and other supplies to help villagers survive.
In another example of pressure from above, Lukovenko said that the entire staff of the local hospital was forced to spend all of election day at their workplace and to vote for Putin in the hospital.
"One young doctor refused to stay in the hospital on Sunday, saying that his wife was away and he had to take care of their two children," Lukovenko said, adding that after that the chief doctor punished him by forbidding the doctor to work additional hours to make more money.
The campaign to elect Putin and Ayatskov was run by one of the deputy heads of the local administration, Lukovenko said.
"[The campaign had at] its disposal a car, communications, money, propagandists and educational and cultural workers. The headquarters was located in the local department of culture, the head of which was also the chief of the local territorial commission."
"The entire territorial commission consisted of people who were accountable to the administration," Lukovenko said, adding that representatives of the administration also took to the polling stations on election day.
Alimova, who has been a member of Saratov's regional electoral commission since 1993, said that there is nothing new about the administration's practice of pressuring voters into electing certain candidates.
"I have filed many complaints to the local prosecutor's office and the court about this pressure and the multiple violations committed by the regional electoral commission," said Alimova. "There were also numerous violations committed in the local polling stations and territorial commissions."
Alimova said she witnessed local and territorial commission chiefs saying they had been told indirectly that they were free to forge results and that the regional commission would cover things up for them.
"They did not receive concrete numbers. These orders were given individually because not every commission head would agree to it," Alimova said, adding that one of the territorial commission members secretly told the Communists that the control figure of the vote for Putin in Saratov was set at "up to 60 percent."