- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2020

A group of over 300 Russian election officials say they will not contribute to a nationwide election on July 1 on reforms that include extending President Vladimir Putin’s reign until 2036, citing concerns of the spread of coronavirus.

Russians are set to vote on a string of amendments that are part of a package of changes to Russia’s constitution that Mr. Putin, who was expected to step down in 2024 after a quarter-century of de facto rule, sprang on the country two months ago.

Putin allies hustled the measure through the national legislature, and the president made clear that a global pandemic is no reason to delay a popular vote to ratify the changes.

But a group of roughly 350 polling officials now says it is too dangerous to hold the election as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country.

The “July 1 vote poses a danger to our lives and health and to the lives and health of voters,” the group said in a statement obtained by Reuters. “We just don’t understand why such sacrifices and risks are needed, why we need to hold such a vote now and at any price. We are not expendable.”

According to Reuters, the show of opposition is unlikely to delay the vote, which is administered by about 1 million officials.

But the complaints are gaining traction among critics who say the election is too rushed and can risk the health and safety of voters.

Russia, which has a population of 144.5 million, has reported over 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 6,522 deaths and 260,649 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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