Voting for five assembly elections will begin on March 27, with West Bengal conducting the maximum eight phases continuing till April 29, and votes for the polls in the four states and one union territory will be counted on May 2, the Election Commission said on Friday. In view of the COVID-19 situation, the EC has issued detailed instructions for assured minimum facilities at each polling station.
As many as 18.68 crore voters will be eligible to cast their votes at 2.7 lakh polling stations for 824 assembly seats across Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Elections in Assam will be conducted in three phases on March 27, April 1 and April 6, while polling in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will take place in a single phase on April 6.
Elections for the West Bengal assembly will be held in eight phases, up from seven last time, beginning with polling for 30 seats on March 27, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said while announcing the poll schedule.
The second phase of West Bengal's assembly elections has been scheduled for April 1 and will cover 30 constituencies, followed by the third phase on April 6 for 31 seats, the fourth on April 10 for 44 constituencies, the fifth on April 17 for 45 seats, sixth for 43 seats on April 22, seventh phase on April 26 for 36 seats and last and eighth phase on April 29 for 35 seats, Arora said.
The Election Commission has issued instructions to the Chief Electoral Officers of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry to ensure that every polling station needs to be mandatary on the ground floor and, shall have a good access road leading to the Polling station building and is equipped with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility, adequate arrangements for lighting, the ramp of the appropriate gradient for the PwD electors and a standard voting compartment etc. This will be further supplemented with COVID mitigation facilities like sanitisers, thermal scanner, soap etc.
In addition, the following will also be included:
(1) Mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, preferably, a day before the poll.
(2) Thermal Checking of voters at the entry point of polling station location/Polling station, either by polling staff or Para Medical staff or Asha worker.
(3) If the temperature is above the set norms of MoHFW at first reading, then it will be checked twice and if it remains, then the elector shall be provided with a token/certificate and will be asked to come for voting at the last hour of the poll. At the last hour of the poll, such electors shall be facilitated voting, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures.
(4) Help Desk for distribution of token to the voters on a first come first basis so that they do not wait in the queue.
(5) Marker to demonstrate social distancing for a queue.
(6) 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.
(7) The services of BLOs, volunteers etc may be engaged to monitor and regulate social distancing norms strictly.
(8) One shaded waiting areas with chairs, dari etc. will be provided, for male and female separately, within the polling station premises so that voters can participate in voting without safety concerns.
(9) Wherever possible, Booth App shall be used at the polling station.
(10) Face Masks in reserves for those electors who are not carrying the mask will be kept.
(11) Awareness posters on COVID-19 should be displayed at visible locations.
(12) If the polling agent or counting agent is having a temperature above the prescribed limit, then their reliever shall be allowed by Presiding Officer, who will keep a record accordingly.
(13) During the process of identification of voter, the voters will require to lower the facemask for identification, when required.
(14) Hand gloves shall be provided to the voter, for signing on the voter register and pressing the button of EVM for voting.
(15) COVID-19 patients who are quarantined will be allowed to cast their vote at the last hour of the poll day at their respective Polling Stations, under the supervision of health authorities, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures. Sector Magistrates shall coordinate this in their allocated polling stations. Record of such electors shall be maintained by the Presiding Officer.
(16) Voters, who are residing in the area notified as containment zone, separate guidelines are being issued.
(17) Proper mechanism of collection and disposal of waste / used gloves shall be put in place at each Polling Station.
* Facilitation for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and Senior Citizens: In Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry, all polling stations are located on the ground floor and sturdy ramps of the proper gradient are provided for the convenience of differently-abled electors with wheelchairs.
Further, in order to provide targeted and need-based facilitation to differently-abled voters, Commission has directed that all Persons with Disabilities in an Assembly Constituency are identified and tagged to their respective Polling Stations and necessary disability-specific arrangements made for their smooth and convenient voting experience on poll day.
Identified PWD electors will be assisted by volunteers appointed by RO/DEO. Special facilitation will be made for PWD electors at Polling Stations. Also, it has been directed that differently-abled electors are given priority for entering polling booths, provision made for
designated parking spaces close to the entrance of the polling station premise and special care to be provided to electors with speech and hearing impairment.
A special focus has been laid on the sensitization of the polling personnel regarding the special needs of the differently-abled electors. The PwD electors can request a wheelchair facility by using the PwD Mobile App available from the Google Play store. The Commission has directed the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) that there should be a proper transport facility for PwD electors in each and every
polling station on the day of the poll. Each and every PwD elector will be provided a free pass on public transport on poll day.