With the deadline for filing of nomination papers for the State Assembly elections in Haryana, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh now over, the Election Commission has directed that the Central police forces be deployed to guard the strong rooms where the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are kept.

The decision is significant as the gap this time round between the polling day (October 13) and the counting day (October 22) is wide and political parties have voiced apprehensions over the safety of the polled EVMs even as there are questions from many Opposition parties whether these machines are really tamper-proof.

In a letter to the Chief Electoral Officers of Haryana, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh, the Commission said the latest decision was taken in view of the availability of Central police forces in sufficient numbers. This arrangement should continue till the day of counting of votes, it added.

The Commission has also decided that women polling personnel will be deployed at polling stations nearest to their place of stay or village in view of lack of amenities for them for overnight stay. Henceforth women polling personnel would be put on duty not on the basis of computer randomisation process but manually by the election observers so that they can report for duty at their polling stations on the morning of the polling day.

The Commission said the second stage of randomisation of polling personnel should be at least nine days before the date of polling instead of 6-7 days. This would help in organising training sessions and facilitate voting through ballot papers by the polling staff.

In yet another significant direction the Commission has asked the Central election observers to file six reports during the polling process. These reports should be sent to the Commission immediately after the scrutiny of nominations; after meeting the candidates and their representatives on or before the day of withdrawal of candidature; immediately after the end of the campaign period; immediately after the end of polling; immediately after the scrutiny of 17 A (Register of Voters) and other documents on the day after the poll; and, finally, immediately after the counting of votes and declaration of results.

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