MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia could annul results at two polling stations where Reuters reporters witnessed people voting more than once during Sunday’s presidential election, election officials said on Thursday.
The reporters photographed 17 people casting ballots more than once at three polling stations in Ust-Djeguta, a town in southern Russia.
Incumbent Vladimir Putin won the election in the country of roughly 144 million with 77 percent of the vote on a turnout of nearly 70 percent. Voting twice is a misdemeanor under Russian law and can lead to a fine.
Putin’s opponents and independent election observers said officials loyal to Putin used tricks to inflate the turnout and this marred the vote.
Chairwoman of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova said a local election commission had filed a lawsuit, which may challenge results at two out of three polling stations - 216 and 217 - where the reporters witnessed multiple voting.
“They filed a lawsuit to cancel election results at these polling stations,” she told Reuters at a commission sitting.
Ludmila Sklyarevskaya, a deputy head of a local hospital, and Jamila Tebueva, a city administration employee, were among those seen voting more than once.
Larisa Abazalieva, the head of a local election commission, said via video link that Sklyarevskaya coordinated medical teams in charge of providing first aid at polling stations on the voting day and had a right to visit various polling stations in the area.
Abazalieva did not provide an explanation for why Sklyarevskaya was seen casting ballots twice.
Tebueva worked for a division in charge of bringing disabled and elderly voters to polling stations, Abazalieva said. She did not offer a reason why Tebueva has voted twice.
Both Tebueva and Sklyarevskaya denied to Reuters that they had voted more than once.
Reuters also uncovered a loophole in the voter registration system that could allow multiple voting. Three Reuters reporters obtained authorization to vote in more than one location and got the go-ahead by officials to vote a second time, although none of them did so.
Asked if the registration system needs to be changed, Pamfilova said that the system is “wonderful”.
“It is absolutely new ... We are proud of our system. We do not need to reform it, we need to fine-tune it when defects are revealed,” she said.
Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg