The probable rise in the number of polling personnel opting for postal ballots in the Assembly election could make a telling difference to the fortunes of candidates headed for a close fight.

On the back of a successful campaign to popularise postal ballot, a majority of the 8,500 polling personnel is likely to exercise their franchise this time. What is more, they are trained to ensure that the ballot papers are not rendered invalid on technical grounds.

The volume of postal ballots is expected to double this time around as compared to the 2008 Assembly election figures.

The case in point is Bantwal. In 2008 elections, the Congress candidate B. Ramanath Rai defeated the BJP candidate B. Nagaraj Shetty by 1,251 votes. Similarly, in Puttur Assembly constituency BJP candidate Mallika Prasad trounced Congress candidate Bondala Jagannath Shetty by 1,425 votes.

District Electoral Officer and Deputy Commissioner Harsh Gupta said arrangements are being made to issue postal ballots to all the polling personnel, which include revenue and other department personnel, lecturers, police and drivers and cleaners of vehicles used for electioneering.

Mr. Gupta said as on Tuesday, a total of 5,413 had cast their votes. Polling personnel tendered their votes during the two rounds of training. Micro observers and policemen tendered the votes on Tuesday. The personnel can also cast their votes on the day of mustering on May 4.

Confusion

In the past, the percentage of invalid votes among the postal ballots had been high. Every postal voter is issued two envelopes of different sizes — one for inserting the ballot paper and the bigger envelope meant to insert the smaller cover along with the declaration as an elector. The envelope can either be deposited at the facilitation centre or can be sent by post to the concerned returning officer. Any lapse in the procedure leads to rejection of the ballot.

The postal ballot was introduced in Karnataka for the first time in 1994 elections, and 886 persons from Dakshina Kannada used it. In the 1999 Assembly elections 2,077 personnel used postal ballots. In 2004 Assembly elections 2,655 personnel used postal ballots, of which 580 got rejected. In 2008 Assembly elections 4,264 usedof postal ballots of which 493 were rejected.

Apart from polling personnel, the postal ballot is used by service voters (those in the military and part of Indian missions abroad), special voters (person holding any office in India declared by the President in consultation with the Election Commission), and elector subjected to preventive detention.

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