Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thank you, folks. I'll be here all week

The Putincrats are gearing up for a big big vote this Sunday for his party United Russia.

In the push to get out the vote, the absentee ballot has become a popular new tool.

A teacher in St. Petersburg said the school administration told staff members to get absentee ballots from their neighborhood polling stations ahead of the election. They are to vote together Sunday at a polling station at the school.

"They didn't tell us necessarily to vote for United Russia, but you can read between the lines," said the teacher, who was willing to give only her first name, Yelena, out of fear of being fired.

Similar accounts have been given by teachers, doctors, factory workers and others around the country. Some have said they were warned they would lose their jobs if they did not comply.

Hundreds of people have called an election hot line to complain about the use of absentee ballots, the Central Elections Commission said in a summary of the complaints posted on its Web site.

Some complaints came from hospital patients, who said they had been threatened with early discharge if they did not produce absentee ballots.

"It is unbelievable. The use of bureaucracy is on an unprecedented scale," said Marina Dashenkova of Golos, an election-monitoring group. "People are complaining that their bosses are forcing them to take absentee ballots and vote for whom they say."

The use of absentee ballots in this way is new, she said, and kills two birds with one stone for the Kremlin: By getting absentee ballots, people are registered as voting even if the votes are never cast, boosting turnout; and when they vote under the supervision of bosses they are likely to vote "correctly."

People also have complained of being required to round up a certain number of votes for United Russia. Yelena, the St. Petersburg teacher, said she was told to compile a list of five relatives or friends.

More than anything, this reminds me of the old Yakov Smirnov joke:

"In America you can always find a party. In Russia, the party finds YOU!"


Anonymous said...

Interesting....juxtapose the sentence in this case with that of Genarlow Wilson. Genarlow Wilson was the 17 year old Georgia teen who was originally sentenced to 10 years (he served over two) for having consensual oral sex with a 15 year classmate.

Anonymous said...

whoops...response to wrong entry.

Anonymous said...

I've often thought we in the US should be concerned about this, as well. While absentee ballots can address a real problem -- people who can't get to the polls -- they also are a big loophole in the election process. There's simply no way to guarantee that the ballot was cast in secret, and uncoerced.

-Ken Watts, The Daily Mull