The stage is all set for the commencement of counting of votes for the 119 constituencies in the State which went to polls in a single phase on Tuesday.
The high stake election has witnessed huge response from the people with 73.2% of the total 2.8 crore voters exercising their franchise. The high turnout resulted in speculations over the fate of the candidates of the respective parties with the ruling and the opposition parties claiming the voting pattern to be in their favour.
Counting process will start with the counting of the postal ballots numbering 44,258 given to the employees and little over 10,000 ballot papers issued to service voters. Opening of the electronic voting machines will commence subsequently. The election authority has fixed 44 centres including 13 in Hyderabad for counting of the votes which will decide the fate of 1,821 candidates in the fray in the elections for which polling was held on December 7.
The election authorities are anticipating that the first trend of voting was expected to come out by 12.30 pm as result of each round of counting would be announced by the returning officer concerned. The election authorities made elaborate security and other arrangements at the counting centres deploying close to 40,000 staff including 20,000 police personnel at these locations.
Each counting centre will have 14 tables in addition to one for the returning officer and an estimated 2,379 rounds of counting is likely to be held for finalising the winners of all the 119 constituencies. Officials are estimating that Serilingampally Assembly constituency would require 42 rounds of counting owing to the presence of more than 5 lakh voters while Bhadrachalam and Aswaraopeta constituencies had the lowest of 12 rounds each.
The election authority had issued series of dos and don’ts for the officials deployed on election duties as well as the contesting candidates and their counting agents. There would be 3,356 staff on counting duties along with 1,916 micro observers in addition to the close to 15,000 support staff to assist them and carrying mobiles into the counting centres would be strictly prohibited.
“Carrying mobiles into the counting centres will be treated as an offence and action will be taken accordingly,” Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar said. Counting agents will be prohibited from going out of the centres till the process was completed and there would be no scope for transmitting information outside while the counting process was on. Each counting table would have one supervisor, an assistant supervisor and one micro observer and the entire process would be taken up in the presence of the agents of the respective political parties.
In addition to counting the votes polled in the EVMs, the election authorities would count slips registered in the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines at one polling station in each of the constituency randomly. Replying to queries, he said the EC had issued specific guidelines relating to counting of the VVPAT slips and it was decided to strictly adhere by these guidelines. “It will be like going back to ballot papers if we start counting all the VVPAT slips,” he said.
Once the counting was completed in all respects, the returning officer concerned would announce the results after obtaining the permission of the observer deputed by the Election Commission. On the staff issue, Mr. Rajat Kumar said randomisation of the staff for counting purpose had been completed and the personnel would not know to which table they were being assigned till they enter the counting centres.