Gloves, face masks must for voters; only 5 people allowed for door-to-door campaign
Ahead of the Bihar Assembly polls this year, the Election Commission (EC) on Friday issued a new set of guidelines for the conduct of general elections and by-elections keeping the coronavirus pandemic situation in mind.
For the first time, the EC has allowed candidates to file their nominations online and has made it mandatory for registered voters to wear hand gloves and face masks before heading to the electronic voting machines to cast their vote.
“Only a group of five people can campaign door-to-door. All voters, polling staff, and security personnel will have to wear masks and thermal scanning will be done at the entry of the poll-related premises. Every voter’s body temperature will be checked before the person is allowed to enter the booth.
“If a voter, on the day of voting, shows symptoms of virus or body temperature is found to be more will be checked twice, and if the result remains the same, then they will be asked to visit again in the last hour of polling. Sector Magistrates shall coordinate this in their allocated polling stations,” the guidelines said.
It doesn’t mention anything on virtual rallies and digital campaigns.
The new rules were framed based on the inputs of political parties and chief electoral officers of various States. It has also created an optional facility to fill the nomination form and the affidavit online and submission of the same, after taking the print, before the Returning Officer concerned.
To maintain social distancing, the EC said only two people and two vehicles can accompany a candidate if coming to the election office to file papers. It restricted convoy for roadshows to five vehicles.
The interval between two sets of convoys of vehicles should be half an hour instead of a gap of 100 meters.
It said public meetings and roadshows can be organised but must follow Covid-19 containment instructions issued by the Centre or the State. For the public meetings, the district election officer will identify dedicated grounds and put markers to ensure social distancing norms by the attendees with clearly marked entry and exit points.
The EC said the number of attendees should not exceed the limit prescribed by the State Disaster Management authority. For the first time, the candidates will have the option to deposit the security amount for contesting the elections online.
The EC said sanitizer, soap, water, gloves and thermal scanners should be made available at the entry of the premises used for election purposes.
Other standard safety measures like wearing face masks, using sanitizers, gloves, installing thermal scanners and wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) kits will continue during the election process ensuring social distancing norms.
Social distancing shall be maintained as per the extent Covid-19 guidelines the State Government and Ministry of Home Affairs. Large halls should be identified and utilised for the election process to endure social distancing norms.
“Earmarking circle for 15-20 persons of 2 yards (6 feet) distance for voters standing in the queue depending on the availability of space. There shall be three queues each, for male, female, and PwD/ Senior citizen voters,” the EC said.
A maximum of 1,000 voters can be present at any polling booth at a time. The guidelines state that nomination forms will be available online on the website of CEO/ DEO.
Further, election affidavits by the candidates can also be filled in online on the website.
The term of the Bihar legislative Assembly comes to an end on November 29 and polls are likely to be held sometime in October-November. Several bypolls were recently postponed mainly due to coronavirus and rains.
A reserve pool of polling, counting and other staff will be maintained by the Returning Officer to replace election staff who show symptoms of coronavirus infection.
Regarding the use of EVMs and VVPATs, the ECI said first and second randomization and preparation of the EVMs and VVPATs will be done in a large hall.
It said sufficient quantities of sanitisers will be made available for the officials involved in the process. Also, gloves will be made available to each official handling EVMs and VVPATs.
The training of election officials will be organised in a decentralised manner at large halls. It said all sufficient number of poll staff will be kept in reserve in case of any need.
The carrying cases of control units and the voter-verifiable paper trail will be sanitised before they are placed on counting tables.
Saturday, 22 August 2020 | PNS | New Delhi