Assembly Election 2021: From mandatory masks to curbs on campaigning, here are COVID-19-related guidelines for polls
Based on the COVID-19 guidelines, the Chief Electoral Officers will prepare comprehensive plans for their respective states and Union Territory in consultation with their nodal officers to conduct the elections.
The Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory began on 27 March, and the polling process will go on till 2 May. To ensure a safe polling process, the Election Commission has decided to follow its broad guidelines which were issued in August 2020 ahead of the Bihar elections.
Based on the guidelines—which are related to poll arrangement and preventive measures—the Chief Electoral Officers will prepare comprehensive plans for their respective states and Union Territory in consultation with their nodal officers to conduct the elections.
Here are some of the key points made in the guidelines:
1. General guidelines: a. Every person should wear a face mask during every election-related activity.
b. At the entry of hall/room/premises used for election purposes, thermal
scanning of all persons should be carried out; and sanitizers should be made available
at all locations.
c. Social distancing should be maintained as per the extant COVID-19 guidelines of the
State government and Ministry of Home Affairs.
2. Nodal health officer: A nodal Health Officer should be designated for the state, the district and the Assembly constituency to oversee COVID-19 -related arrangements and preventive measures during the entire electoral process.
3: EVMs/VVPATs: The first and second randomization and preparation of EVMs/VVPATs shall be done in large halls. Sanitizers and gloves should be made available for officials.
4. Nomination process: The nomination form will be available on the chief electoral officer or the district electoral officer’s website. Candidates can also fill their affidavits on the CEO or DEO’s website and have the option of depositing the security money online.
5. Number of electors in a polling station: There should be a maximum of 1,000 electors in a polling station.
6. Polling station arrangements: At the entry point of polling stations, thermal checking of electors will be done. If the temperature of an elector is above the set norms of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare at first reading, then it will be checked again. If the temperature remains the same, then the elector will be asked to come for voting at the last hour of the poll.
7. Postal ballots: The option to vote as an ‘absentee voter’ has been extended to electors who are marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD), above the age of 80 years, employed in notified essential services, and COVID-19 positive/suspect.
8. Campaign by parties: For door-to-door campaigning, a group of five persons including the candidate(s) and excluding security personnel is allowed.
For road shows, the convoy of vehicles should be broken after every five vehicles. The interval between two sets of convoys of vehicles should be half an hour instead of a gap of 100 metres.
For public gatherings, the district election officer has to identify dedicated grounds with clear entry and exit points and put markers to ensure social distancing is practiced. Parties and candidates are responsible to ensure that all COVID-19 -related requirements are fulfilled.
9. Counting of votes: Not more than seven counting tables should be allowed in a counting hall. The de-sealing of control units/VVPATs and the displaying of results on control units should be done by one official on each table.
For counting of postal ballots, an additional number of AROs may be required. If required, postal ballots may also be counted in a separate hall under the supervision of the returning officer/assistant returning officer.
The upcoming Assembly elections will be held in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry from 27 March to 29 April. The counting of votes will be held on 2 May.
Assembly Elections 2021: Braille voter slips to be provided for visually-impaired electors; all you need to know
Visually-challenged electors will be given accessible voter information slips with Braille features in addition to the voter information slips.
The EC has said that the candidates with criminal antecedents should publish information about the cases against them in newspapers and on television channels on three occasions during the campaign period.
Strong rooms are sealed in a double lock system with the presence of candidates and observers of the Election Commission.