Preparing for the election season ahead of the Bihar polls, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued detailed guidelines for polls amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Limiting 1,000 voters per voting booth, ECI has set specific guidelines for polling stations, mail-in ballots, campaigning and vote counting. Bihar will go to the polls in October-November this year as the pandemic rages on.
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ECI Guidelines for Voting Booths
Instructions for polling stations:
- Mandatory disinfection of the polling station, thermal scanner at the entry point and screening of voters at the entry point by the electoral staff or the paramedics or the Asha worker. If the temperature is higher than the set standards, the voter will be given a token/certificate and will be invited to come and vote at the last hour of the poll when voting will be facilitated following the COVID-19 measures.
- Marker to demonstrate social distancing for queue – assignment circle for 15-20 people 2 meters (6 feet) apart for voters.
- Soap, water and sanitizer should be provided at the entry/exit point of each polling station. Face masks to keep in reserve for voters who don’t wear them
- COVID-19 awareness posters should be posted in visible places
- Arrangement of seats in the polling station for election workers in accordance with social distancing. If the election official or counting official has a fever, he must be relieved.
- At any time, only one voter is permitted to stand in front of each election official and the voter may have to lower their mask to identify themselves.
- Gloves must be provided to the voter, to sign on the voter register and press the button on the EVM to vote.
- Quarantined COVID-19 patients will be allowed to vote at the last hour of Election Day, under the supervision of health authorities. Guidelines for voters in containment zones will be published separately.
Mail-in voting option has now been extended to voters with disabilities, over 80, employed in essential services, COVID-19 positive/suspect voters and in quarantine (home/institutional)
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Political Campaign Guidelines:
- Door to door campaign: Only 5 people, including the candidate excluding security personnel, if any, are authorized to go door-to-door.
- Street show: The convoy of vehicles must be broken every 5 vehicles instead of 10 vehicles. the
- the interval between two convoys of vehicles should be half an hour instead of a gap of 100 meters.
- Election meetings: Gatherings/public gatherings may be held subject to compliance with current COVID-19 guidelines. The District Elections Officer shall identify dedicated grounds, put up markers to ensure social distancing guidelines, ensure that the number of participants does not exceed the state-mandated limit, while political parties will ensure that that all COVID-19 related requirements such as face masks, sanitizers, thermals, scanning, etc. are carried out during each of these activities.
- Non-compliance with instructions: Anyone who breaches the instructions on COVID-19 measures will be liable to prosecution in accordance with the provisions of Sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act 2005, in addition to legal action under the Article 188 of the IPC, and other applicable legal provisions, as specified in Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) of July 29, 2020 of the Ministry of the Interior
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- The vault must be disinfected after the end of Election Day
- No more than 7 counting tables should be allowed in a counting room, therefore the counting of each constituency can be considered in 3-4 rooms
- UC/VVPAT carrying cases must be disinfected
- The result display of the control units can be displayed on a large screen to prevent the singing of the voting agents
- Counting centers must be disinfected before, during and after counting
- For the counting of postal ballots, an additional number of BRAs may be required. If necessary, absentee ballots may also be counted in a separate room under the supervision of the Returning Officer/Assistant Returning Officer.