The State Duma has unanimously approved amendments to the Criminal Code that could see Russians caught organizing election fraud landed with heavy fines or time behind bars, the parliament’s press service said Wednesday.
The amendments, which passed after their third reading, aim to crack down on organizers of “carousel voting,” a phenomenon where voters cast multiple ballots by traveling between polling stations.
Following last September's parliamentary elections, a Russian journalist who filmed himself participating in carousel voting was arrested on charges of “illegally obtaining a ballot.”
Denis Korotkov, a correspondent for St. Petersburg-based site Fontanka.ru, said that organizers of the carousel vote paid participants. Korotkov also reported that voters were expected to send pictures of their ballots to organizers to prove they had voted for the ruling United Russia party.
Russian election monitor, Golos, received almost 2000 reports of possible voting violations following last September’s elections, including 'ballot stuffing' and carousel voting.
Ahead of presidential elections in March 2018, Russian media reported that the Kremlin is planning record voter turnout. Officials have been instructed to ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin takes his fourth term in office with at least 63 percent of the vote, equaling his landslide win in 2012.
The amendments to the criminal code could see election fraud organizers jailed for up to five years.