Originally published in VoICE Quarterly Global Magazine Volume III Special Issue № 1&2 (January–June 2019)
For many decades, the Russian Federation used a procedure for the inclusion of citizens in voter lists, which provides for the automatic inclusion of a citizen in the voter list at the address where he was registration by an authorized state body overseeing the field of migration. At this address, the citizen, who resides there, receives various public services, but is not obliged to actually reside there.
Due to structural changes in the Russian economy in the last two decades, the migration of voters across the territory of Russia has increased. However, the place of migration is not considered as the place of the legal registration.
Until 2017, resolution of this problem was insured by the possibility for voters to receive during the elections an absentee ballot. Issuance of the absentee ballot was possible only at the legal place of residence, which was not convenient for migrating voters, because the citizen may not be actually living in his legal place of residence.
This procedure required the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russia to forecast a possible number of applications for absentee ballots and envisage a sufficiently large margin before each election. Also, over time more and more citizens asked to simplify the procedure for consideration of the place of their actual stay when compiling voter lists. There was a need for new legislative and organizational decisions to ensure the electoral rights of millions of voters.
Before the 2018 Presidential elections in the Russian Federation, it was decided to solve this challenge.
To address this task, a new procedure was developed for submitting applications for inclusion in the voter list at the actual location of the voter, which we called “Mobile Voter".
Using this system, nearly 5.7 million voters applied for voting outside their legal place of residence, which is 4.7 times more than in the previous similar elections.
The deadlines for submitting applications allowed everyone to use the service without waiting in queues: the Portal of State and Municipal Services and district centers could be contacted forty-five days before the voting day, the precinct commissions - twenty days before the voting day.
The deadline for accepting applications was five days before the voting day, due to the need to process applications in the system. CEC of Russia strives to further reduce the processing time, and by now the deadline for the voter has been shortened country-wide to three days before the voting day, and in Moscow – to just one day.
Applications were processed in the Information system of the CEC of Russia, and citizens were included in the voter lists at polling stations convenient for them.
A citizen could submit an application only in person to the closest territorial or precinct election commission or to a multifunctional center of state and municipal services, or via Internet using the Unified Portal of State and Municipal Services.
Prior to the implementation of the “Mobile Voter” system by the 2018 Presidential election in the Russia, it was successfully tested in elections in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation in 2017, when. 8.1 applications were submitted per one thousand voters.
After successful utilization in the 2018 Presidential election the "Mobile Voter" gained popularity among voters and was developed further. The system was effectively applied in the regional elections in Russia in September 2018, when the number of filed applications per one thousand voters nearly doubled.
In September 2018, during the election of the Mayor of Moscow, the “Mobile Voter” system allowed people to vote at polling stations outside the capital constituency - in four neighboring regions.
The picture below shows the procedure of processing voter applications in the information system.
PEC – Precinct Election Commission
TEC – Territorial Election Commission
MFC – Multifunctional Center of State and Municipal Services
EPGU - Single Portal State and Municipal Services (functions)
The information contained in the voters’ applications is entered at the district level into the computer data base and then sent to the centralized data base of the CEC of Russia.
After processing all data in the system, a book of the list of voters is entered for each polling station in which the data of voters who have expressed their desire to vote at this polling station are entered.
Also, a register is sent to the polling station containing data on voters who should be excluded from the list due to the fact that they applied for voting in other polling stations.
A voter can submit only one application. In the case of multiple applications, the first one will be valid according to the date and time of submission.
The fact of submitting an application can be checked on the CEC of Russia website.
Each voter who submitted the application is sent an SMS/text message to his mobile phone, containing information on his application, the number of the polling station chosen, and the date of application.
This tool provided effective control over the “Mobile Voter” system in strict accordance with the principles of electoral law.
Thus, the “Mobile voter” system allows providing the maximum conducive conditions for voters to cast their ballots at their actual location. The positive experience of the application of this new system and growing voters’ trust toward it confirm the need for the further development of the “Mobile voter”.