Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Polling – Those who made it happen

-Brian Mendonça

As the nation goes to the polls to elect the members of the lower house of Parliament, i.e. Lok Sabha, the exercise to marshal around a billion voters merits a closer look. Here in Goa voters exercised their franchise on 12th April. Delhi went to the polls on 10th April, while Tezpur in Assam started it all on 7th April.

 Elaborate training sessions for polling personnel in Goa began as early as the first week of March. During these trainings power point presentations were given by officials explaining the duties of the polling team and the use of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Care was taken to issue Election Duty Certificates (EDC) to all polling staff to enable them to vote where they were posted, as they would be away from their home constituency.

On the day prior to the polls the teams were asked to collect the polling material from the designated collection centre, check the material and depart with security staff in government vehicles to the polling station. Having arrived at the venue the furniture is arranged as per Election Commission of India (ECI) guidelines to seat the first, second and third polling officer with the presiding officer overseeing the conduct of the poll. The EVMs are installed after connecting the control unit (CU) and the ballot unit (BU) away from a window but with adequate light source to ensure secrecy. This done, members of the polling team spend the night at the polling station, viz. a classroom, and arise early the next day, i.e. the day of polling to conduct the mock poll at 6 A.M.

The mock poll is conducted in the presence of polling agents of the candidates to demonstrate that the EVMs are working properly. During the mock poll votes are cast in favour of all the candidates including ‘None of the above’ (NOTA). The total number of votes cast should be 50. The machine result is then tallied manually; the machine memory is cleared; and the EVM is sealed for voting to start at 7 A.M.  Polling agents of the candidates with a copy of the electoral roll sit behind the polling officers to cross check the identity of the voters. For a period of 11 hours till 6 P.M. the polling team conducts the poll with regular reports regarding the voter turnout and percentage of votes polled being sent to the control room.  After the poll is closed the team completes the formalities and hands over the material to the collection centre which can take up to midnight.

The synergy and dedication of the polling teams working with the members assigned to them to ensure an incident-free poll is worthy of praise – which is why when a polling team on election duty carrying teachers, and a 108 ambulance was ambushed and blown-up in the red corridor in Raipur on the same day (12th April) it leaves us shocked and deeply saddened. Or does it?
For election updates see www.eci.nic.in; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender St. Inez, Goa on 20 April 2014. Pix. Election Commission officials seal an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) prior to the start of voting. (Courtesy - hindustantimes.com)

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