How does India count its millions of votes? All you need to know
Like the voting process, the counting of votes on 16 May will also be an elaborate affair.
Even as the Election Commission of India basks in the glory of an election that saw the highest ever voter turnout, the election process is still far from over. The day for the much-awaited counting of votes is here and, just like the polling, will also be an elaborate affair.
The counting of votes is in itself a massive textbook exercise. Here are some snippets of information that will give a fair idea of how India counts its votes.
Representation of the People Act, 1951
Sec 64: Counting of Votes
The counting of votes is done under the supervision and direction of the Returning Officer. Contesting candidate/election agent/counting agents are allowed to be present at the counting venue.
Section 66: Declaration of results
In the absence of any direction to the contrary from the poll panel, the Returning Officer will declare the result on completion of counting.
Sec 67: Report of the results
The Returning Officer will report the result to the Election Commission of India and to the appropriate authority (i.e. Secretary State Legislature/Parliament, who shall get it published in official Gazette immediately.
Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961
Rule 51: Time and place for counting
The time and place of counting must be fixed by the Returning Officer at least one week before date of poll notice to be given in writing to each candidate/his/her election agent
Rule 52 : Appointment of Counting Agents
As per the directions of the Election Commission of India, a candidate may appoint counting agents which shall not exceed 16 for each place of counting.
Rule 53: Admission to the place of counting
No body else except RO/ARO, counting staff, candidates, their election agents and counting agents public servants on duty, persons authorized by ECI.
Rule 54: Secrecy of voting
The Returning Officer must read out provision of section-128 aloud before commencement of counting.
Rule 55C: Scrutiny and inspection of EVMs before counting
Counting staff and counting agents must inspect and ensure that the control unit is not tempered and all seals are intact. If the seal is disturbed, the Election Commission of India should be informed about it.
Infrastructural arrangements at counting centres
Number of tables in counting hall depends upon:
~ Number of polling stations to be counted.
~ Space available
~ Number of counting agents
~ Number of counting staff including micro-observers
~ Security concerns
• In one hall, counting tables should not exceed 14 (during last Lok Sabha elections 2009, even 25 tables were allowed, with Election Commission’s prior approval, provided hall was big enough). In addition to this one table each for Returning Officer and observer.
• The candidates or their agents are allowed to sit on Returning Officers Table to watch the counting process.
• Adequate barricades using woodblock and wire-mesh for each counting table are used to prevent agents/candidates/representatives from handling polled EVMs, but agents should be able to view entire process.
• Every counting table should have:
~ A blue ballpoint pen
~ Paper knife for breaking open seals
~ Part II of Form 17-C
~ Proforma for recording of votes secured by each candidate and NOTA by additional counting staff/ Micro observer
~ Arrangement of loud speaker and a black board for disseminating information regarding trends in counting and results to public and media.
~ Adequate teams for sealing EVMs and other envelopes.
~ Only official video camera for overall videography in the counting hall.
~ No camera still or video of journalist or media person is allowed inside the counting hall.
~ Hand held cameras of press/media persons having valid passes can be allowed to take a general view. They should not be allowed beyond a certain demarcated line or a string put for this purpose.
Under no circumstance votes recorded in EVM should be captured by any camera including the official camera.
~ Entire proceeding to be videographed and CD of such videography to be kept in a sealed cover for future reference.
~ Under no circumstance actual votes recorded on an EVM or ballot paper is to be photographed or covered by any audio visual coverage.
Who can use a mobile phone in the counting hall?
Only the Election Commission of India observer is allowed to use mobile phone inside the counting hall.
Postal ballots vis-a-vis EVMs
• Under Rule 54A, postal ballot papers are to be counted first. In all cases, the first round shall be for PBs only. (However, it has to be completed before start of penultimate round of EVM counting).
• Counting of votes in EVM can be commenced 30 minutes after start of Postal Ballot counting, even if the latter is not completed. It is not necessary to wait further.
Announcement of results
• After all rounds are completed and final result sheet in FORM-20 is ready, the Returning Officer should not immediately sign it.
• Before announcing, the officer is required to pause for two minutes during which candidate/agent can ask for recount for postal ballots or for all rounds for some round/s.
• The Returning Officer must consider the grounds urged in the written application and decide if the request for recount is valid in whole or in part. If it is found to be unreasonable or frivolous the Returning Officer has the power to reject it Reject entirely.
• Following the resolution of any discrepancy, the Returning Officer seeks the observer’s clearance and announces the result following his/her approval.
• After counting of one round is over, the EVMs have to be re-sealed.
The Election Commission of India website was extensively referred to while presenting the methodology of counting of votes to our readers.
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