Slips for voters will be issued directly by Election Commission this time

The Election Commission of India will introduce an elaborate expenditure monitoring system for the State Assembly election in a bid to check the influence of money power on the polls.

Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala Nalini Netto told the media here on Wednesday that candidates would be required to maintain separate accounts for all payments related to election expenditure. Contributions should be received in such accounts.

A large number of election expenditure observers and video surveillance teams would be deployed to monitor all kinds of expenditure and any attempt to pay money to voters. Reports regarding observed expenditure would be entered into a shadow observation register for each candidate, and a folder of evidence would be built. Candidates would be required to keep the observers posted of their expenditure and notice would be issued if any candidate was found making unrecorded expenditure.

Mrs. Netto said that special vigil would be kept on paid news (campaign news and features published by the media for a consideration). Committees would function at the State and district levels to monitor reports appearing in the media.

Seizure of cash

Flying squads and static surveillance units would operate during the campaign. They would be empowered to seize large sums found in possession of people. A magistrate would be present to order the seizure and this would be videographed. The public were advised to carry not more than Rs.1 lakh in their person unless accompanied by evidence for the purported use of the money.

The current ceiling for election expenditure by a candidate was Rs.16 lakh. Candidates could open accounts in a post office, cooperative bank or scheduled bank in their names or jointly with their election agent. Accounts would not be allowed to be held with a relative or others if they were not election agents.

Voter slips

Mrs. Netto said that slips for voters would be issued directly by the Election Commission this time. They would be delivered at the houses of voters. Voters were requested to check that their names were on the voters list. They could confirm that their names were on the list by checking on the official web site www.ceo.kerala.gov.in or by telephoning the call centre being set up by the commission. A SMS-based facility for checking the voters list would be set up shortly.

Voters could register their names till the last day for filing nominations though it was advisable to register earlier. Non-resident Indians could register as voters this time either by directly approaching the electoral registration officer in taluk offices with their passport or by mailing their application with copies of their passport and other details attested by Indian embassies abroad to the registration officer. So far, only about 10 non-resident Indians had come forward to register as voters. The names of NRI voters would be listed separately on the voters list.

Delimitation

She said the coming poll would be the first election in the State after delimitation. The number of constituencies had gone up in north Kerala and come down in south Kerala following delimitation though the total number of constituencies remained the same. Four constituencies were added in Malappuram district.

She said that as per the electoral rolls published on January 5 with January 1 as the qualifying date, the State had 2.29 crore voters against 2.14 crore in the 2006 elections. Women voters (1.19 crore) outnumbered men. Kerala was one of the States where electoral identify cards with photos had been issued to all voters as back as 2005. There would be 20,758 polling stations in the State for the poll scheduled on April 13. Electronic voting machines would be used at all polling booths. There was the possibility of adding nearly 500 auxiliary polling stations depending on requirement.

She said that employees from all government organisations including banks would be drafted for polling duty. A welfare system would be set up to take care of the needs of employees drafted for duty including their health care. Training for officers had already started.