Fraud in e-voting on the Russian parliament elections
Organisation: Novaya Gazeta
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 09/11/2021
Credit: Aleksandr Bogachev
Aleksandr Bogachev, 37 years old, data visualization specialist, data journalist. Author of the book about data visualization “Charts that convince everyone.” Worked as the head of the data journalism department at RBC. Worked with Transparency International, Internews, Article 19, Golos.
I want to thank:
– Novaya Gazeta editor Andrei Zayakin, who made a significant contribution to this article
– Boris Ovchinnikov, independent analyst, on whose findings, among other things, one of the charts is based
– Petr Zhizhin for help with data preparation.
In Russia, electronic voting was used for the first time in major elections. The authorities reassured that it would be transparent and fair. The source code and full voting data were never released to the public. Data from officials was decoded and independent analysts were able to convincingly prove the existence of falsifications in favor of the pro-government candidates and the ruling party—United Russia. In half of Moscow’s districts, opposition candidates won at physical precincts but lost due to e-voting.
The project summarizes a series of materials by independent researchers convincingly proving the existence of falsifications in e-voting to the Russian parliament. The most striking were the articles by the physicist Maxim Gongalsky and the developer Pyotr Zhizhin.
The presented article summarizes the previous findings and adds several new proofs. The main one is a sudden and simultaneous increase in the share of re-voting among ALL opposition candidates on the second and third days of voting. The second is a synchronous gap in all districts between voting for pro-government candidates and a pro-government party, which cannot be explained by any real reasons.
Articles on the topic of fraud in electronic voting caused a wide response. There were street protests in Moscow against the results of electronic voting. A public group was created to investigate electoral fraud. Legal proceedings are still ongoing.
The charts presented in this material were quoted by popular YouTube bloggers and journalists and were discussed at meetings of the Moscow City Duma.
The material was published in Novaya Gazeta, on the website (57 thousand views), and in the newspaper with a circulation of 102 thousand copies.
Unfortunately, despite this, the Russian government plans to use e-voting in the next presidential elections.
I used decoded blockchain dump. This job was performed by Arthur Hachuyan and Pyotr Zhizhin. Final dataset contains few millions rows.
All data analysis was performed in Tableau. Adobe Illustrator were used to create final versions of charts.
What was the hardest part of this project?
It was rather hard to collect all the data, clean it and match different parts with each other.
The most difficult part was to create clear data visualizations to exactly show the details of the fraud.
This article is of great socio-political importance since it clearly shows that e-voting has become just another tool for uncontrolled falsification by authorities and should be completely abolished in elections at all levels in Russia.
What can others learn from this project?
Electronic voting is a technically complex thing built on the blockchain. Only a community of caring people with a technical background was able to collect and prepare data that helps uncover violations and falsifications.
This case shows how important it is for journalists to be able to work with complex and large datasets.