Russian local election officials fired over vote irregularities
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian election chiefs have fired seven polling station officials from a region where Reuters reporters found evidence of irregularities during a parliamentary election in September.
The seven local officials, from the Bashkortostan region in the foothills of the Ural mountains, were removed "for violations of various election legislation norms", the regional election commission said in a statement.
Another four local election officials in the same region were given reprimands, the statement said. Election chiefs in Moscow said they had no plans to overturn the election results in the affected districts, however.
"These are isolated incidents," said Yevgeny Shevchenko, a member of Russia's Central Election Commission. "The results of the elections ... are not being put in doubt."
In the Sept. 18 election, the pro-Kremlin United Russia party won three-quarters of the seats in the lower house, more than it had ever held before. The result paved the way for an expected bid by President Vladimir Putin for a fourth term.
Reuters reporters who monitored voting at 11 polling stations in various regions of Russia observed, among other irregularities, an election official bringing ballot papers into a polling station hidden under a coat, and people voting more than once.
In polling station No. 284, in Bashkortostan, Reuters reporters counted 799 people who came and cast a vote, while the official tally was 1,689 votes cast. The official result at that location gave a comfortable victory to United Russia.
The head of the local election commission at polling station No. 284 was among the seven fired.
A representative for the Central Election Commission in Moscow told Reuters the official had been removed for impeding the work of independent observers at the polling station and delaying the vote count.
The representative did not cite the discrepancy in voter numbers as a reason for removing the official.
In a written reply last month to Reuters questions about the conduct of the parliamentary vote, the central election commission said allegations of voting fraud were unproven. But it said there would be further investigation of the evidence Reuters uncovered.
(Reporting by Olga Sichkar; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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