We are elaborating the standards of video observation!

So far, election observation through monitoring recordings from webcams installed in polling stations, was one of the most underestimated methods of election monitoring. International organizations, as well as local observers, focused on physical presence in the polling stations and analysing the election process with their own eyes and not through the lens of the camera.

Meanwhile, although video observation cannot replace ordinary observation, it is an extremely effective method that can support it, sometimes facilitating the search for election irregularities. Moreover, it is not always possible to find an adequate number of observers in all regions of a given country, especially in the regions remote from the capital and in the polling stations located in smaller towns. Video monitoring can easily solve all these problems!

In addition to that we have noticed that some electoral fraudsters refrain from breaking the law in front of observers when those visit polling stations, however they do not pay much attention to the web cameras. So they are easy to be discovered.


Our methodology

The methodology that we used for the process of video observation is extremely simple and therefore highly effective and rewarding.

Our observers, after undergoing special training, analyse the recordings from Russian polling stations by carefully examining the number of people who voted in each one them (in other words: the number of people who cast their vote into the ballot box), as well as reporting the irregularities and electoral fraud to the coordinators.

Then, turnout data, as well as irregularities, are checked by our project coordinators, who make sure that they are error free. Even at this stage we can already confirm whether the given polling station has suffered electoral crimes, for example: illegal casting of votes to the ballot box, multiple voting, voting without documents or casting votes after the election commission has been closed.

After the results have been checked, we compare the data gathered by observers with the official data published by Central Electoral Commission in order to compare the real turnout in the polling station with the official one. In this simple way we are able to detect whether a protocol has been falsified in a given election commission by putting there a bigger number of voters than there really was, who cast their vote.

Not all our observers know the Russian language, therefore we do not expect from them to control the process of vote counting. Similarly, we do not analyse the number of votes collected during voting outside the voting premises, when members of the election commission bring a ballot box to a home-bound person and help them vote (the so-called home voting). However, at a simple level we can tell that a very large number of votes cast in this way could not be collected in accordance with the law.

The experience gained during our project let us create the paper Introduction to the methodology of video observation of election. You can read it in Russian or in English by clicking the links: methodology (English version), methodology (Russian version).

Video observation training

We conducted several interactive webinars for our volunteers-observers participating in our project so that they could work effectively.

During this training, we showed them what video election observation consists of, explained why we are observing the Russian presidential election and convinced them why it is worth engaging in the observation of Russian election. We also shared our information and experience on how the falsifications in Russia look like and gave them the detailed instructions for the entire video observation process.

After receiving the recordings from the Russian presidential election, our observers worked independently, using the knowledge provided by us to study turnout and electoral irregularities. We did not supervise all aspects of volunteers' work - it was their job to make their work as effective as possible.