Nikolay Levichev, Member of the CEC of Russia: Assistive Technologies at the elections in Russia

Abstracts from the presentation at the session "Principles of and observation over resolution
of electoral disputes" of the OSCE ODIHR seminar on observation
of elections and resolution of electoral disputes
in Vienna on 1 October 2019

Within the context of our commitments under the 1990 CSCE Copenhagen Document, the electoral system of Russia is undergoing significant changes in light of the current global challenges.

We have embarked on the technological, organizational, legal and humanistic improvement of our electoral procedures, basing our work on the national electoral experience.

These transformations resulted essentially in the new electoral standards for transparency and legitimacy of electoral procedures:

• Video surveillance at polling stations and in territorial commissions;

• “Mobile Voter” mechanism;

• Technical equipment of election commissions (ballot processing systems - BPS, electronic voting systems - EVS, use of a QR code);

• Round-the-clock work of the Information and Reference Center of the CEC of Russia;

• Evolution of public observation in elections;

• Development of assistive technologies.

I will dwell on this last point in more detail.

The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities prompted amendments to the electoral law.

On this basis, the CEC of Russia began to receive information about voters with disabilities by categories of disability from the Pension Fund, the operator of the Federal register of disabled people.

This allowed us to practically focus on the complex development of assistive technologies - the basis of the electoral future.

Previously, only accessibility of the physical environment was considered a problem for people with disabilities. But today, the availability of the informational environment also poses a problem.

In Russia, there are more than 11 million voters with disabilities, nearly 30 million senior citizens with hearing and visual impairments, and more than 2.5 million people with disabilities who do not speak Russian.

For the first time, the “Mobile Voter” project provided citizens with the opportunity to choose the most convenient polling station for themselves within their region (or throughout the country and even abroad).

The “Mobile voter” has become not only a new algorithm for creating a barrier-free space, but also formed the basis of the experiment on remote electronic voting.

Remote voting has the potential to become another effective tool for comfortable realization of suffrage for citizens with disabilities.

This innovation seems especially tempting for the country of gigantic distances and population mobility.

The CEC of Russia, together with scientists, public organizations of the disabled, libraries for the blind, has developed a set of specialized equipment and software for building a digital electoral environment.

I will give just a few examples:

• Interactive terminal of universal design with multimodal content and digital services for informing voters. It is equipped with a tactile keyboard for audio and sign language navigation. The terminal is equipped with a secure WiFi space and dynamic QR codes, embossed graphic, large font format (with elements of full-color flat and 3D printing).

• Use of electronic tablets with a tactile keyboard and video communication with control centers.

• Online sign language translation services are being developed that are provided remotely using mobile communications and Internet technologies.

• The “Talking Site” project is being implemented, which envisages provision of special equipment for blind people. The radio informant provides sound accompaniment and helps to independently receive a ballot paper, go to the booth and the ballot box.

Digitalization is a global process!

Progressive development of information platforms and issues of increasing civic activism and transparency of the electoral process should be integrated within a single digital environment which is accessible to all categories of citizens.

The CEC of Russia is focused on building a modern electoral model that is actively introducing technological innovations into the electoral process, thus contributing to the qualitative development of universal equal suffrage within the framework of the concept of pluralistic democracy.

We fear mechanization of the electoral process!

We are trying to preserve its humanitarian dimension by amending the law "On Charity and Volunteering."

Attracting volunteers to provide assistance to citizens with limited mobility carries a humanistic mission for youth!

To ensure the professional work of volunteers, we develop specialized courses and training programs that will help volunteers provide even medical assistance at polling stations, if necessary.

The electoral system of Russia is in a constant search for new effective solutions that should ensure inclusive voting and availability of a digital environment in the era of progressive development of information technologies.


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