Verdict 2019: Stage set for counting of votes

EC rejects opposition demand to count VVPAT slips first

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 22

As the world waits with bated breath the results of the 2019 general elections, the Election Commission has laid out a detailed plan for counting of votes and is learnt to have rejected the opposition parties’ demand of counting VVPAT slips before opening EVMs.

A senior EC official said the counting on Thursday will be taken up as per plan and a directive on the same has already been issued to all the returning officers (ROs) across the country. “As decided the counting of Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips will be taken up at the end of counts and not in the beginning as demanded by opposition parties,” he said.

The counting of votes will begin at 8 am.

As per the detail, counting directives issued to ROs, a copy of which is with The Tribune, it has been decided to count postal ballots simultaneously with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) count due to the “sheer size” of the ballots received this time from service voters. Of the total 18 lakh registered service voters with the EC, 85 per cent have returned their ballots indicating their choice of candidate, said the official. 

Till now, the postal ballots were counted in the beginning followed by counting of EVM votes.

According to the directives issued to the ROs, the EC has also brought in a change with respect to recount of postal ballots in case victory margin would be less than the number of such votes. As per the changed norms, in such a situation instead of recount of postal ballots, the ROs have been instructed to “mandatorily re-verify such rejected votes” and the entire process “should be videographed”.  

It has also been decided to follow the established procedure of counting VVPAT slips for the mandatory five polling stations per assembly segment of each parliamentary constituency at the end of the entire counting process.

The opposition parties which had approached the EC on Tuesday wanted five random VVPATs to be counted first so that if there is a problem or a mismatch, all VVPAT slips can be counted before it is too late.

Giving details of the counting process, EC officials said the exercise is done in the presence of the RO of each constituency and candidates or their agents. The RO declares the result when he is certain that the counting has been successfully completed.

Each candidate can appoint up to 16 counting agents from his/her party for each place of counting. The counting agent takes care of the interests of the party.

How are votes counted

  • Postal ballot papers and the EVMs would be brought in.
  • The counting staff and agents inspect EVMs before opening them.
  • The counting of votes begins.
  • The EVM is powered on and the seal over the ‘Result’ button is pierced. The button is then pressed and it displays the total number of votes recorded for each candidate at a particular polling station.
  • After completion of a round of counting, EVMs would be resealed. But before it the RO waits for two minutes to give chance to polling agent to ask for re-counting. But a final decision on the appeal rests with RO.
  • Following the resolution of any discrepancy, the RO seeks the EC observer’s clearance and declares the result and reports the same to the Election Commission.
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