Elaborate arrangements for counting in place in Kerala

A dog and bomb detection squad examining a designated counting centre at Malabar Christian College Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode on Thursday.  

The counting of votes polled in the April 6 Assembly elections in the State scheduled for May 2 is designed to be an elaborate exercise, given the need to strictly follow COVID-19 guidelines.

The votes will be counted in 633 counting halls across 114 centres, Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena said on Thursday. The counting of the postal ballots will start at 8 a.m., and the counting of votes polled in the electronic voting machines (EVM), at 8.30 a.m.

The number of counting halls has in fact gone up from 140 last time, Mr. Meena said. The number of halls was increased as the Election Commission of India asked States to reduce the number of tables per hall from 14 to seven to meet physical distancing norms. This effectively means, three to four halls for each assembly segment.

Separate halls

As many as 527 of the counting halls will be dedicated to count EVM votes. The postal ballots will be counted in 106 halls. In all, 24,709 officials, including reserve staff, have been deputed for the counting duty. The votes will be counted in the presence of observers appointed by the Commission. The strong rooms where the EVMs are stored will be opened in the presence of the observers and the counting agents.

Given their large number, the postal ballots can prove a decisive factor in tightly-contested constituencies. Last time, the postal ballots had totalled 60,000 to 70,000 in Kerala. This time, individual constituencies have 3,000 to 4,000 postal ballots each.

Postal ballots

The Election Commission of India (ECI) had distributed 5,84,238 postal ballots ahead of the April 6 polls.

Till April 28, the Commission has received 4,54,237 ballots. In all, 2,96,691 postal ballots were distributed to voters above the age of 80, and 51,711 to persons with disabilities. The Commission had also distributed postal ballots to 601 COVID-19 patients, 32,633 voters in the essential categories list and 2,02,602 polling officials.

In view of the COVID-19 situation in the State, the number polling booths was increased by 89% on April 6. The Commission had used 50,496 each of ballot units and control units and 54,349 voter verifiable paper audit trail machines (VVPAT) machines for the Assembly elections.

In all, 2,594 ballot units, 2,578 control units and 2,852 VVPAT machines were used for the byelection to the Malappuram Lok Sabha seat which was held simultaneously.

After the elections, the EVMs and VVPATs used in the Assembly polls were stored under tight security in 140 strong rooms, and those for the Malappuram bypoll, in seven strong rooms.

Forty-nine companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are guarding the strong rooms, supported by the State Armed Police Battalion and the State police force.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 5:25:24 PM |

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