Ballot boxes with broken seals or half-open lids, packages of ballot papers whose protective tapes have been torn off: Nikita Kapitonow has seen a lot.

But on this Sunday afternoon, a few hours before the polling stations close, the independent observer in Krasnogorsk, a town with a good 175,000 inhabitants in the outskirts of Moscow, is particularly concerned about the so-called home vote.

Friedrich Schmidt

Political correspondent for Russia and the CIS in Moscow.

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If you want to fill out the ballot at home and have it picked up, you actually have to fill out a special declaration, explains Kapitonow. That takes time. In fact, however, the social welfare authorities compiled a list of all those who received their services, then swarmed election workers and came back after a short time with filled urns.

This is a notorious method of forgery, says the observer.

Experience has shown that the votes allegedly cast at home are almost exclusively for the power party United Russia.

Control is necessary.

But in a nearby polling station, Kapitonov has just been refused access to the register of voters who are said to have applied for a vote at home.

Since this violates his rights as an observer, Kapitonov files a complaint at the local representation of the Central Election Commission in the building of the city administration and requests that all ballot papers allegedly collected at home in this polling station be declared invalid.

Does attendance prevent violations?

Not that there is any great hope that the complaint will be upheld. But it is a matter of principle, and Kapitonov, who is 35 years old and professionally programs heating systems, and his around 60 supporters in Krasnogorsk and a neighboring town are convinced that their presence can prevent violations. Kapitonow has been helping the Golos (voice) movement since 2013, on a voluntary basis. The first election he observed was the then mayoral election in Moscow - the only election to which the now imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalnyj was allowed as a candidate.

For the current election of the Duma, the House of Commons and the regional parliament, the observer noticed more volunteers.

Kapitonov suspects that this is due to curiosity and also to the election recommendation system “Smart Voting”, with which Navalnyj's people want to bundle protest votes against United Russia on the most promising opposing candidate.

So far, Krasnogorsk is firmly in the hands of the power party.

"It is impossible to defeat these people," says a candidate from the Yabloko party for the regional parliament elections, with which Kapitonov is touring Krasnogorsk.

If his observers discover a violation, they report it in the Golos system and it appears on an online map of the election observers;

By Sunday evening, just under 50 suspected cases have come together for Krasnogorsk.

They are considered "foreign agents"

More serious violations are reported from other places than those with which Kapitonov is confronted: observers distribute photos of stacks of ballot papers stuffed in urns, report on so-called voter carousels for multiple votes In the south-west Russian region of Rostov, numerous Eastern Ukrainians vote, who give them Russian passports just in time for the election and who were brought into the country in buses and trains to vote gratefully for United Russia.

Voting is often done in polling stations that are set up in schools and kindergartens and run by teachers and kindergarten teachers. A lot can be achieved there, by pointing out the rules and with polite emphasis, says Kapitonow. Journalists from the independent online broadcaster TV Doschd come in handy, for example when he is denied access to an electoral roll, but is granted it after a few discussions.

Golos and Doschd have recently become “foreign agents”. The Central Election Commission and state television launched a campaign to discredit election observers before the election, in which the “agents” are supposed to appear as leverage for the hostile West. In Krasnogorsk, the Kapitonov does not cause any major problems: one of its observers was removed from a polling station by the police, but released after a few hours. But the crucial hours are still ahead: the counting of the votes on Sunday evening.

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