Tamil Nadu

In pictures: How ballot papers are counted

Ballot papers were synonymous to elections until the late 1990s, when Electronic Voting Machines began replacing them. All major elections use Electronic Voting Machines since 2004 and ballot papers slowly slipped into history.

However, in the Tamil Nadu rural elections held in two phases in December 2019, ballot papers were used. While the first-time voters were a little disappointed, it was a nostalgic experience for the elders. The voters literally give their stamp of approval to their preferred candidate, the ballot paper is folded in a certain way and dropped in the ballot box. It is opened on the day of counting and the winner is declared.

Here is a step by step process of how ballot papers are counted:

A counting centre at a college in Perumalpattu in Tiruvallur district. The State Election Commission has set up 315 counting centres in 27 districts across Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
Booth agents wait at the counting centre in Tiruvannamalai. Registered political parties and candidates assign booth agents to monitor the counting process. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
Officials enter a counting centre in Poonamallee. The counting centres and strong rooms, where the ballot boxes are stored are cordoned off and secured till the start of the counting process. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
Counting starts with lifting of ballot boxes from the strong rooms at the respective counting centres. Photo shows a strong room at a college in Madurai. Photo: S. James
After taking them to the sorting room, officials check whether the seal on the boxes are intact. Photo: G. Karthikeyan
Election personnel carry ballot papers for counting at a school in Tiruvannamalai. The colours of the baskets denote the various posts for which elections were held. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
Counting begins inside an Arts college at Chithode, Erode district. The ballot papers are dumped on the tables in the presence of agents of candidates. Photo: M. Govardhan
Officials also tally the number of ballot papers with that of the records on number of votes polled. Photo shows a counting centre in Udhagamandalam. Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
Officials then sort the ballot papers meant for the four posts — Panchayat ward member, Panchayat president, Panchayat union ward member and district Panchayat ward member. Photo taken at a counting centre in Gundur, Tiruchi district. Photo: M. Moorthy
Upon completion of the sorting process, the ballot papers of same colour are bundled in 50s. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
The validity of all the ballots are checked. If the stamp is missing, or stamped multiple times, it is rejected. Photo shows a counting centre in Ramanathapuram district. Photo: L. Balachandar
Counting officials show each ballot to the public and then drop it in the respective boxes belonging to the candidate or the political party. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
The segregated ballots are then counted, and then recounted if necessary. Photo: M. Srinath
The entire process is monitored with closed circuit television cameras. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
A recount can be requested by a candidate. However, the Returning Officer is free to decline. Seen here is a counting centre in Omalur, Salem district. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan
A counting centre in Virudhunagar. A recount, if needed, is done in the presence of candidates or their polling agents. Photo: R. Ashok
After the declaration of results, the winning candidate gets a certificate from the State Election Commission. In this picture, the Returning Officer presents certificate of election to K. Sakthivel, who was elected unopposed as village Panchayat president to T. Valasai village in Tiruvannamalai district. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
In case two or more candidates polling the same number of votes, the winner is decided by draw of lots. At Perodu Panchayat in Erode district, the Assistant Returning Officer draws a lot to elect the winner since both candidate secured 94 votes. Photo: M. Govarthan
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