The CEC may clarify the rules of public control over online voting

The CEC may clarify the rules of public control over online voting

The Public Chamber on Monday discussed measures to improve monitoring of remote electronic voting (DEG). The proposals were prepared by technical experts who observed the DEG in the 2023 elections. In their opinion, the procedure for appointing observers working remotely (through the DEG portal) can be simplified, and the volume of statistics on the voting progress published there can be significantly expanded. It would also not hurt to provide for the possibility of issuing a certified copy of the final protocol in electronic form. The Central Election Commission (CEC) is ready to discuss new ideas.

Members of the technical working group under the Coordination Council of the RF OP for public control over voting discussed measures to improve monitoring of DEGs at a round table on November 20. This is not the first such experience: before the 2023 elections, experts sent about 70 proposals to the CEC, and “the absolute majority had already been implemented in the system by the time testing began,” CEC member Anton Lopatin recalled. According to him, on the eve of the start of the presidential campaign, ensuring absolute confidence in the DEG is one of the priority tasks for the Central Election Commission, so observers should submit their proposals for examination to the commission as quickly as possible.

This time, the list of proposed improvements includes only 16 points, said Oleg Artamonov, co-chairman of the Coordination Council and head of the territorial election commission (TEC) of the DEG for the 2023 elections. Among them, in particular, is the idea to separate the statuses and procedures for appointing observers working remotely (through the DEG portal) and those who are present directly in the DEG TEC premises. Now, Mr. Artamonov recalled, they all have a common status and appointment procedure. Potentially, up to 16 thousand observers could be appointed, although the TEC premises are unlikely to accommodate more than five. “As a person who worked in the TEC DEG, my greatest concern is the possibility of 16 thousand people appearing in person to work in the premises,” admitted Oleg Artamonov. “For colleagues, the logic is perhaps in the ease of assigning observers through the government services portal, which radically facilitates all the work for the subjects of surveillance.”

Also, according to experts, it should be clarified in what form an observer can receive a certified copy of the final protocol. The problem is that at the TEC DEG the observer did not receive any legally significant document that would allow him to go to court or another government agency, explained observer from A Just Russia - For Truth Pyotr Losev, while observers at the polling stations received such a document receive: “It’s about the same thing: since our protocol is digital, we just want to receive it in some form. And some accompanying document that this is not a “filka’s letter.”

“Are you really worried about filing documents in court? Where do you work, in what organization?” — Anton Lopatin became interested. “There are no contradictions here, we just need to clarify,” Oleg Artamonov came to the aid of his colleague. According to the law, he recalled, the observer has the right to receive a copy of the protocol, but printing the final protocol of the DEG is technically impossible: it is several thousand sheets, and such a requirement can paralyze the work of the commission. According to Mr. Artamonov, the issue has already been discussed with Yabloko and A Just Russia, from which a similar request was received, and party members believe that a protocol made on a write-once medium, such as a CD, is quite sufficient. But some accompanying document may be required.

However, Mr. Lopatin does not see any obstacles to issuing TEC DEG observers, if necessary, with a paper copy of the protocols. “The print is there, everything is there. Complete it and hand it over, we don’t mind,” he assured. As for the status of remote observers, it is necessary to work out with the Ministry of Digital Development and Rostelecom the issue of the possibility of opening a personal account for them on State Services - at least for those who have passed verification and meet all the requirements of the law, a member of the Central Election Commission clarified.

Experts also propose regulating the procedure for observers to contact the TEC DEG (via a special form or by e-mail) and clarifying possible interpretations of the form of an electronic ballot, taking into account its technical features - for example, in which cases it should be considered invalid. In addition, they consider it important to provide for the possibility of checking the correctness of the ballot by the voter himself and expanding the capabilities of technical monitoring of the state of the hardware and control system of the DEG. Observers and experts also noted a large number of requests for detailed data on the voting progress published on the DEG portal. By the end of the week, the proposals will be compiled into a single document, which will be sent to the Central Election Commission, Oleg Artamonov promised.

Anastasia Kornya

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