REM Glossary article

Unified Election Day

There is a common problem with translating the Russian electoral term for the day of the year when most elections are held. Word by word, the original Russian phrase 'Edinyi den' golosovaniya' is translated as "the single day of the voting". Unfortunately, the term is misleading. The 'day of voting' cannot be called 'single' both for the election or the year.

Firstly, most elections are held for several days: one or two days of 'early' voting and the final day of 'normal' or 'traditional' voting. After this last day, the elections are over, and the results start to be calculated and declared.

Secondly, although 90% of the elections are held on the annual primary voting day, some 10% of elections are still spread over the year.


For example, in 2022, there were 495 elections held on 45 days other than the 'single' election day.


Thirdly, the Presidential elections, the most important elections in the Russian Federation, are also held outside the 'single' election day, almost half a year before.

 Moreover, at some point, between 2005 and 2012, there were two equal 'single' days per year.

All these facts illustrate how improper and misleading the term 'single' is.

On the other hand, as Table 1 demonstrates, there is no consensus on the proper English translation of the notion.

Although all options are considered acceptable, we believe the most proper technical term to be 'unified' voting day since the concept appeared due to the governing bodies' intentional unification of election dates. Additionally, the term 'Unified Election Day' is preferable due to the commonly used 'Election Day' or 'E-day' collocation.

Table 1. Number of results returned by Google Search Engine per a search phrase
(data on 16.04.2023)

Search phrase Number of results
“Single Election Day” in Russia 113
“Single Voting Day” in Russia 105
“Single Polling Day” in Russia 33
“Single Day of Voting” in Russia 111
“Main Voting Day” in Russia 132
“Main Election Day” in Russia 142
“Main Polling Day” in Russia 52
"Main Day of Voting" in Russia 58
“Joint Voting Day” in Russia 3
“Joint Election Day” in Russia 13
“Joint Polling Day” in Russia 0
"Joint Day of Voting" in Russia 0
“Unified Election Day” in Russia 52
“Unified Voting Day” in Russia 88
“Unified Polling Day” in Russia 1
"Unified Day of Voting" in Russia 28
"United Election Day" in Russia 26
"United Voting Day" in Russia 41
"United Polling Day" in Russia 1
"United Day of Voting" in Russia 12


Establishment of the primary voting day

Since the 1990s, the constituent entities of the Federation have set their own dates for regional and municipal elections. As a rule, regional heads have been elected every four to five years. However, in October 2004, Alexander Veshnyakov, chairman of the Russian Central Election Commission, proposed establishing an annual primary voting day in March and introducing one more day (the so-called reserve day) in October.

On 21 July 2005, President Vladimir Putin signed a law "On amendments to legislative acts of the Russian Federation on elections and referenda and other legislative acts of the Russian Federation". The document established two equal unified days for voting in regional and local elections: the second Sunday in March and the second Sunday in October of the last year of the mandate of the corresponding body. In addition, if regional elections fell on the same year as federal (Presidential or State Duma) elections, they were held on the same day. The new legislative norm came into effect in 2006.

Changing the date of the Unified Election Day

On 5 April 2012, at a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev, representatives of a number of Russian regions put forward the initiative to establish one unified day per year instead of two. The second Sunday of September was suggested as a potential date.

On 2 October 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin (elected on 4 March 2012 and took office on 7 May 2012) signed amendments to the Law on Political Parties and the Law on Fundamental Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right to Participate in Referendums of the Citizens of the Russian Federation. According to them, the second Sunday of September of the year in which the terms of office of local and municipal authorities expire, and in the year of elections to the State Duma, the day of voting in those elections, has become a single voting day. The document entered into force on 1 November of that year. Thus, a unified voting day was stipulated to be held once a year, in September.

Combining Election Day with State Duma elections

On 3 November 2015, at the initiative of the Russian State Duma, a law was adopted to bring forward parliamentary elections and to combine them with a unified voting day in September (previously, the State Duma was elected in December). According to amendments to the Law on Fundamental Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right to Participate in Referendums of the Citizens of the Russian Federation (signed on 12 June 2002), from 2016, the unified voting day is held on the third Sunday of September in the year of elections to the State Duma, and on the second Sunday of September between parliamentary campaigns. If the second Sunday in September coincides with a public holiday and falls on the day preceding or following it, the election is scheduled for the third Sunday in September.

Unified Election Day dates

The first regional and municipal elections were held on a Unified Election Day in 2006: 12 March and 8 October.

In 2007, they were held on 11 March and 2 December (election day to the Stae Duma). In 2008 they were held on 2 March (the day of the Presidential election) and 12 October. In 2009, they were held on 1 March and 11 October; in 2010 - on 14 March and 10 October; and in 2011 - on 13 March and 4 December (Duma election day). In 2012, the Unified Election Day was combined with the presidential election on 4 March, and on 14 October, the first direct gubernatorial elections since 2005 were held in the Amur, Belgorod, Bryansk, Novgorod and Ryazan regions.

Following the establishment of one Unified Election Day date (in September each year), voting took place: on 8 September 2013, on 14 September 2014, on 13 September 2015. In 2016, the Unified Election Day was combined with the elections to the 7th State Duma of the Russian Federation on 18 September. In 2017, elections in Russian regions as part of the Unified Election Day were held on 10 September, in 2018 on 9 September, and 2019 on 8 September.

Multi-day Election 'Day'

In 2020, elections in most Russian regions were held over three days for the first time, instead of one day as previously. The main voting day was 13 September, with additional days on September 11 and 12. The Russian Central Election Commission determined the relevant procedure on 24 July 2020 based on amendments to the electoral legislation of 23 May 2020. The amendments gave the CEC the right to determine the order and timing of citizens' voting "to create conditions for the protection of voters' health" (due to the spread of coronavirus infection). Later, on 31 July 2020, a federal law was signed, establishing that federal, regional and municipal elections and referendums could be held over several, up to three, consecutive days. In 2020, voting on three consecutive days during the UED took place in regions where there were by-elections to the State Duma and elections to the executive and legislative branches of the constituent entities and their administrative centres and municipal elections combined with them.

In 2021, the Unified Election Day was combined with the elections to the 8th State Duma of the Russian Federation; according to the CEC decision, it was held on September 17, 18 and 19.

Initiatives to move the Unified Election Day

The question of changing the date of the Unified Election Day in Russia has been raised repeatedly. On 16 July 2020, CEC chairwoman Ella Pamfilova expressed the view that holding elections over several days would necessitate postponing the election date in the future. According to her, September is the "most unlucky month" to hold them due to the start of the school year. Of the nearly 100,000 polling stations, 49,000 are in schools. Voting for several days takes up both weekends and working days, which can affect the educational process. According to the CEC head, April might be the "optimal month" for a Unified Election Day.

In particular, the late LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky supported the initiative to reschedule the Unified Election Day to April. Still, he suggested that the single voting day should be held at most once every two years.

Last update on 2023-11-30 by Content manager.

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