Ukraine’s separatist poll called out to pro-Russian voters who filled polling stations across the city of Donetsk on Sunday. Yet, some voters who were eager to declare independence were seen voting twice or more. Polling stations draped with Donetsk independence flags attracted pro-Russian separatists, where workers at these poll stations did not seem to care or notice some people voting more than once.
Citizens who came to vote only encountered one question on the ballot, asking whether or not they were in support of the “Act of Independence of the People’s Republic of Donetsk.” The options were “yes” or “no.” In the Luhansk region, voters saw basically the same question on their ballots.
Despite the fact that many of the people who came to vote were not registered, they were still able to vote once they presented identification papers. It was the case that the list of registered voters was not current, so everyone who wanted to do so was able to vote.
According to onlookers and foreign journalists covering the Ukraine separatist poll, a significant number of Ukraine’s pro-Russian voters were seen voting twice at a single polling station, while others made rounds to different stations in the area after the poll had begun. Journalists and officials from Kiev both stated that there was no legitimate system being used in the poll in order to prevent people from voting multiple times, and at multiple stations.
It was very apparent, the stations were ultimately biased towards the pro-Russian separatist movement. At one of the poll stations seen, there were Donetsk separatist flags hanging all around the actual ballot boxes themselves.
The polling stations remained open for 14 hours, instead of the lawful 12 hours. However, this was initiated by the People’s Republic of Donetsk’s Central Election Committee who stated that the two extra hours were needed in order to add voters to the registration list. However, access to the current electoral rolls was outlawed by Ukraine’s capital. By 4 p.m., the committee states that over 69 percent of registered voters showed up to vote, but the separatist committee has been unclear on how they reached that percentage, since many voters manually filled out their registration forms at the poll booths.
Although there was far less violence than had been expected, there were two episodes that made tensions rise at the polling stations. According to Donetsk’s committee member Sergey Tretyakov, someone had fired rubber bullets into the air at one station in Donetsk. He also stated that police in Krasnoarmeysk attempted to disenfranchise voters, since Ukraine’s central government in Kiev had deemed the polling “illegal.”
Russia’s response to this poll has been mixed, for Putin in Moscow has tried to persuade the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to delay its referendum in order to give political discussion “the conditions it needs to have a chance.” However, there were polling stations available in Moscow for citizens of Donetsk and Luhansk who wished to vote on the referendum. Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, voters and representatives of the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk ignored Putin’s request, following through with the poll.
Since the Ukraine separatist poll experienced pro-Russian voters who were seen voting twice or more, Western nations and Ukraine’s government have both called the vote “illegitimate,” urging citizens in Ukraine to wait until the presidential election on May 25 to cast their votes. Still, the pro-Russian separatists under the banner of “The People’s Republic of Donetsk,” ultimately ignored such requests and statements.
By Scott Gaudinier