Long queues, in compliance with social distancing norms, with heavy participation of both men and women were seen at polling booths in the five southern districts of the state which are heading to the ballots today.
As of 1 pm, the overall voter turnout in the five districts inched towards 50%. There has been 51.46% polling in Idukki, 50.27% in Kollam, 50.87% in Pathanamthitta, 46.5% in Thiruvananthapuram and 52.5% in Alappuzha. These figures indicate that voters are coming out in large numbers to exercise their right overriding the fears of the pandemic.
Many prominent political leaders such as Congress leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala, Devaswom and tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran, fisheries minister J Mercykutty Amma, MPs Anto Antony and AM Ariff, Kerala Congress (J) chief PJ Joseph were among those who voted in the initial hours.
An incident of a 90-year-old voter dying after he fainted outside a polling booth in Pathanamthitta district has been reported.
Elections to 6,910 wards across 395 local bodies in the five districts are taking place Tuesday where 88.26 lakh electors can exercise their right. There are 11,225 polling booths in the first phase.
The polls are taking place with stringent Covid-19 protocol in place with polling booths constantly sanitised and officials conducting the process with ample masks, face-shields, sanitisers and gloves. Only three voters are allowed inside a booth at a time and they have been requested to bring their own pens to mark their signature on the voting sheet. Voters have to compulsorily wear masks.
This time, election officials have made arrangements for even those testing positive for the virus and those under quarantine to exercise their right. Such persons can vote at their local booth post 6 pm after everyone else has voted. Polling officials have been asked to wear PPE kits when such persons enter the booth to vote.
The second and third phase of elections in the remaining nine districts are scheduled to take place on Dec 10 and Dec 14 with votes being counted on Dec 16.