Extra voting hours get poll panel nod

People will now be able to begin casting votes at 7 am. Voting will end at 6 pm, ECI said. Archive People will now be able to begin casting votes at 7 am. Voting will end at 6 pm, ECI said. Archive

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday increased voting time by two hours for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Delhi Assembly elections to “enable greater participation of voters in the electoral process”.

Under the new timings, voters will now be able to begin casting their votes one hour early, at 7 am, and finish an hour later at 6 pm. With the extension, the total number of polling hours has gone up to 11 hours from nine.

The ECI notification came after consultations were held between Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath and Election Commissioners H S Brahma and Nasim Zaidi. The commission had discussed the issue recently before giving its final approval.

The Delhi Election Commission had on March 11 requested the ECI to extend the earlier voting window — 8 am to 5 pm — by one hour on each side. Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev had made the request, stating that “people prefer to get out to vote when it is not too hot. We have therefore asked that time be extended both in the morning and the evening”.

Apart from the bigger turnout in the recent Delhi Assembly elections, the increase in voting hours is also expected to accommodate the jump in the number of voters in the country.

During the Delhi Assembly elections held in December 2013, nearly 1.7 lakh people were still in queue after the deadline for voting ended at 5 pm. As a result, the Delhi Election Commission had to keep voting open, with polling drawing to a close in Okhla constituency around 9.30 pm.

According to EC officials, since the elections will be held in summer, more voters are expected to turn up to cast their vote towards the evening.

The EC is expecting approximately 81.4 crore voters (an increase from 71.3 crore in the last Lok Sabha polls) to exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha elections which begin on April 7 and end on May 12. Of these, nearly 10 crore have been added to electoral rolls this time.