In September 2021, elections to the State Duma were held. Preliminary calculations showed that opposition candidates supported by Smart Voting had won the election in most Moscow districts. However, the picture changed dramatically after data from the remote electronic voting (DEG), published with a long delay, was added to the results from the polling stations. As a result, pro-government candidates were declared winners in all districts.
A meeting of the Moscow Public Chamber’s Commission for the Development of Civil Society was held on the subject of “New Electronic Tools for Building Dialogue between Citizens and Power.” Its participants had a criminal intent to falsify the results of the elections to the Moscow City Duma of the seventh convocation. Having agreed in advance and distributed the criminal roles between themselves, Alexei Shaposhnikov, chairman of the Moscow City Duma, and Alexei Venediktov, chairman of the Moscow Public Chamber Commission on Civil Society Development, spoke at the round table with the intent to carry out the plan. With the intent to conceal the crime, they stated their desire to develop the tools of e-democracy. In particular, they proposed the use of blockchain technology for voting in elections. Alexei Venediktov and Alexei Shaposhnikov misled an unlimited number of people, pointing to the future possibility for every voter to verify their own vote and ascertain the accuracy of the vote count by means of blockchain.
Alexei Shaposhnikov and Alexei Venediktov announced at the Moscow Civic Forum their intention to try out electronic voting in the 2019 Moscow City Duma elections. In order to implement the criminal intent, the commission of the Public Chamber of Moscow on the development of civil society, headed by Alexei Venediktov, prepared the bill “On conducting an experiment on the organization and implementation of remote electronic voting in the elections of deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the seventh convocation.”
Having a criminal intent and being aware of the threat to the citizens’ free will, the idea was supported by the mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin and the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation headed by Ella Pamfilova.
Moscow City Law No. 18 “On conducting an experiment on the organization and implementation of remote electronic voting in the elections of deputies to the Moscow City Duma of the seventh convocation” was signed.
Federal Law No. 103-FZ of 29.05.2019 “On conducting an experiment on the organization and implementation of remote electronic voting in the elections of deputies of the Moscow City Duma of the seventh convocation” was adopted.
These legal acts formed the regulatory framework for the perpetration of the crime of falsification of voting results. The acts defined the procedure for conducting and tabulating the results of electronic voting. They determined that electronic voting should be carried out on the basis of the state information system “Portal of state and municipal services (functions) of Moscow” (mos.ru website). The operator of this portal is the Moscow Department of Information Technologies (DIT), a functionary body of the Moscow City Government.
Three electoral districts were selected for the electronic voting experiment: No. 1 (Zelenograd), No. 10 (Bibirevo, Lianozovo, Severny), No. 30 (Chertanovo Central, Chertanovo South).
In the 2019 Moscow City Duma elections, 9,810 voters participated in electronic voting. The final turnout at electronic polling stations was 92.3%.
On election day, the Portal experienced at least three outages, which resulted in voters being unable to cast their ballots. The total time of inaccessibility of the Portal due to technical problems was about four hours. As a result, the duration of electronic voting was less than ten hours. According to article 64 of the Federal law “On basic guarantees of the electoral rights of citizens and the right to participate in the referendum of the citizens of the Russian Federation” the duration of the voting cannot fall under 10 hours; a shorter duration is in itself a ground for the invalidation of the voting results at the polling station.
Realizing the intention to falsify the results of voting, District Election Commission No. 30 recognized Margarita Nikolayevna Rusetskaya as the elected deputy of the Moscow City Duma of the seventh convocation in the single-mandate electoral district No. 30 by its decision No. 23/1 dated September 9, 2019 “On determining the results of the election of a deputy of the Moscow City Duma of the seventh convocation in the single-mandate electoral district No. 30”. According to the annex to the above decision of the District Commission, the difference in the number of votes received by Margarita Rusetskaya and Roman Yuneman was 84. At the stationary voting stations, the number of votes for Rusetskaya was 8,525 (28.08%) against 9,106 (29.99%) for Yuneman. At the electronic voting station, 1,120 (47.12%) votes were cast for Rusetskaya and 455 (19.14%) for Yuneman. In an attempt to conceal the committed crime, the electoral commission did not give verifiable reasons for such a significant difference between voting for the two candidates at the stationary voting stations and in the electronic voting.
Disagreeing with the election results, protecting his rights and legitimate interests, Roman Yuneman filed a lawsuit in the Chertanovsky District Court of Moscow to invalidate the voting results for the remote electronic voting station No. 5003 in Moscow.
The judge of the Chertanovsky district court of the city of Moscow, Oksana Anatolyevna Badova, made a knowingly unjust decision to deny the claim, thus committing a crime under part 1 of Article 305 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the court’s ruling, “the disruption that occurred could not have affected the will of the voters or made it impossible to establish the will of the voters. After the DEG system had been restored to working order, voting continued as usual. All voters who experienced problems were able to successfully participate in the voting process after the system was restored to service.”
The Moscow City Court upheld the decision of the Chertanovsky District Court of Moscow.
Recommendation N CM/Rec(2017)5 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe “On electronic voting rules” enshrines the obligation of member states to ensure transparency in all aspects of electronic voting. Any observer, to the extent permitted by law, should be able to observe and comment on electronic voting, including the collection of results.
Contrary to this, not all of the software code had been made publicly available. Observers did not have access to the blockchain node, making it virtually impossible to observe the electronic voting.
The full list of registered and admitted participants in the electronic voting came into the possession of Alexei Navalny’s team. The database contained the names, birthdates, individual insurance account numbers (SNILS), phone numbers, and email addresses of 12,000 people. A random check of the reliability of the information contained confirmed the validity of the entire database.
The database leak indicates an insufficient level of information protection and criminal negligence on the part of the organizers of the electronic voting, i.e. a crime under part 1 of article 293 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
In an interview with the online magazine 7x7, Alexei Venediktov stated that he was “an absolute supporter, lobbyist and initiator” of the introduction of electronic voting in Russia, and praised the experience of its use in past elections, thereby confirming his status as an organizer of the crime under part 3 of Article 33 of the Criminal Code.
In order to falsify the voting results in the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, on May 25, 2021 the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation adopted a resolution “On Remote Electronic Voting in the Elections of September 19, 2021”. Kursk, Murmansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov and Yaroslavl regions, as well as the federal cities of Moscow and Sevastopol were identified as the crime sites.
In Moscow, in contrast to other regions of Russia, the instrument of crime was the state information system “Portal of public and municipal services (functions) in Moscow” (mos.ru website). The re-voting function was added to the voting interface as an innovation. Each voter could change his vote an unlimited number of times within 24 hours after voting, but not more often than once in three hours.
Alexei Venediktov said in an interview that he was the one responsible for introducing the re-voting function, reiterating his status as the crime organizer. According to him, this function was necessary so that voters subject to administrative control could subsequently change their vote according to their personal preferences. Thus, the existence of voting control is not disputed even by the organizers of the electronic voting, which confirms the fact of the crime and is the basis for recognizing the results of the electronic voting as invalid and refusing to use it.
According to Venediktov’s testimony, during the testing of the electronic voting system in July 2021, significant time delays in vote counting after the re-voting procedure became apparent. The working group suggested abandoning the re-voting function, but Venediktov insisted on keeping it in order to carry out his criminal intention of rigging the elections. These circumstances confirm Venediktov’s status as the crime organizer.
Voting stations for remote electronic voting were set up in each single-mandate constituency. In Moscow, 15 such voting stations were set up.
A few weeks before the voting started mass media started to report about people being forced to sign up for the electronic voting.
The electronic voting was open during all three days from September 17 till September 19. In all regions where it took place, except Moscow, the results were published in the evening of September 19. In Moscow, the observers’ certificate of access to the observation node was revoked at 8 p.m. in order to conceal the crime. The observers were unable to monitor the accuracy of the vote count.
After the polling stations in Moscow were closed, it was announced that it would take about an hour and a half to transcribe the voting results. However, after that time Alexey Venediktov said that only the results without the re-votes had been transcribed and announced them. However, according to the testimony of Nikolai Kolosov, a member of the electronic voting polling station commission, Alexei Venediktov learned the voting results earlier than the members of the Election Commission of Moscow. The final results of the electronic voting in Moscow were not made public until the afternoon of September 20.
The organizers of the voting were aware in advance of the technical problems with the transcription of the votes, but they deliberately misled the observers about the supposed timing of the vote count.
According to Alexei Venediktov, the delay in vote counting was due to the large number of voters who had re-voted. According to him, about 307 thousand voters out of 1.9 million, or 16% of the total number of voters, used the opportunity to change their votes.
After votes had been counted at electronic voting stations, pro-government candidates won in all Moscow districts through falsification. The electronic voting determined the final winner in 8 out of 15 Moscow districts. At the same time, opposition candidates won the electronic voting in 13 out of 18 non-Moscow districts.
While analyzing the electronic voting data, evidence was found that the results of the voting were falsified.
For instance, the percentage of those voting for a particular candidate changed slowly over time on September 17 and 18. However, in the morning of September 19 an abnormal growth of votes for the pro-government candidates was observed in all Moscow constituencies, while the number of votes for the opposition candidates decreased at the same time.
From about 12:20 till 13:00 voting in all 15 districts of Moscow dropped to normal values. Then the intensity of the voting increased again for an hour and a half until 14:30, after which it returned to its normal values. This anomaly can only be explained by organized interference in the electronic voting system with regulated rest breaks for the falsifiers, which confirms the fact of the crime. The anomalies are very distinct: the level of support for pro-government candidates went up by 50% within 5-10 minutes.
According to the testimony of the DIT representatives, the abnormal growth of voting in the early hours of Sunday was connected with the “change” of the votes given on Saturday evening. At the same time, about 50% of the votes for the opposition candidates cast on Saturday evening went to the pro-government candidates. This fact proves that falsifiers had information about the voting results even before polling stations were closed, and that it was possible to purposefully change votes given for opposition candidates.
According to the testimony of Maxim Gongalsky, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences, the analysis of voting results has revealed regularities in usage of the re-voting function. For instance, the voters changed their votes for pro-government candidates less often than they did for opposition candidates. The percentage of changed votes for all opposition candidates is 10-13%, and only 7-9% for pro-government candidates. A similar situation was observed in all 15 electoral districts of Moscow.
“The ballot box stuffing is clearly of a programmed nature. It is impossible to get several hundred thousand people, scattered all over Moscow, to execute an order to start doing something suddenly, and just as suddenly stop synchronized to the accuracy of five minutes,” said Gongalsky.
In an attempt to coverup the crime and avoid responsibility, the Department of Information Technology said that the spikes in voting were due to text messages reminding people of the vote.
When asked why only the percentage of votes for pro-government candidates increased and voters for other candidates did not respond to the call to vote, Artem Kostyrko, head of the group of developers of electronic voting and head of the Moscow government’s department for improving territorial management and development of smart-projects, stated that “the pro-government electorate has a burning desire to vote in response to a text message”.
Later Artem Kostyrko, being the person responsible for the technical part of the electronic voting and the executor of the crime, repeatedly evaded journalists’ questions about the voting mechanism and the counting of the electronic votes.
The revealed evidence indicates that the accused persons actively used the re-voting function to change the voting results in single-mandate constituencies, which is an offense under Article 142.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
In the case of voting by party lists, the use of re-voting in favor of the United Russia party would look implausible. Therefore, a mechanism of “stuffing” of electronic ballots was used to falsify the voting results.
Anomalous voting at electronic polling stations for the United Russia party continued synchronously in all Moscow constituencies for two hours longer than for candidates in single-mandate constituencies. During this time the number of votes for the United Russia party was 50% higher than for the pro-government candidates. However, there was no overall increase in the number of votes for candidates running in single-mandate districts at that time. Therefore, ballots were cast only on party lists. It is necessary to take into account the fact that the ballot for voting in single-mandate districts was given to voters first, and the implausibility of the hypothesis that half of the voters of the “United Russia” party skipped the ballot for their single-mandate district within a strictly limited time interval. This gap between votes for candidates in single-mandate districts and for United Russia is marked in blue in the graphs.
A second non-public blockchain containing a voting time stamp was used for the functioning of re-voting and accounting only for the last vote. Observers had no access to this blockchain. The procedure of extracting the last votes was carried out by the Department of Information Technologies of Moscow and was not controlled by observers and electoral commissions. This circumstance ensured the concealment of traces of the crime.
Thus, the non-transparent voting mechanism and inability to reliably double-check the voting results allowed the criminal intent to falsify the voting results in various ways to be realized.
Organizers of falsification of voting results Alexei Venediktov and deputy chairman of the Moscow City Election Commission Dmitry Reut opposed the cancellation of the results of the electronic voting to achieve the criminal result, stating that all the votes had been counted correctly.
On September 24, the Central Election Commission passed decree No. 61/467-8 recognizing the election of deputies to the State Duma as having taken place and the results as valid. Ilya Massukh, chairman of the territorial electoral commission for remote electronic voting, deliberately misled the citizens by claiming that the results of the electronic voting and the number of its participants showed the voters’ trust in the remote electronic voting system.
In order to protect their rights, the candidates appealed against the results of voting at all 15 remote voting stations in Moscow. However, due to the issuance of knowingly unlawful decisions, none of the appeals were upheld.
Taking into account the outlined evidence, the level of falsification during the electronic voting in Moscow was 250 thousand votes: 120 thousand in single-mandate districts and 130 thousand in the federal list.
Thus, 3.5% of votes in single-mandate districts and 3% of votes on party lists were falsified by means of electronic voting in Moscow. The committed crime has led to occurrence of ocially dangerous consequences in the form of non-election of opposition candidates in eight single-mandate districts of Moscow at the elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation of the eighth convocation.
The use of electronic voting in the elections to the State Duma constituted a crime and was intended to falsify the voting results.
In order to conceal the crime, the observation of the electronic voting was limited and ceased completely during the vote counting procedure itself. The observers were not given the tools to double-check the accuracy of the vote count. The combination of these facts indicates falsification of the voting results.
Alexei Venediktov is the organizer of this crime. He took an active part in developing the electronic voting software, and the re-voting option that was used to commit falsifications was implemented at his insistence.
Thus, A. Venediktov organized falsification of the voting results, which means that he committed a crime under part 3 of article 33 and part 1 of article 142.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.