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Monday, November 23, 2020

Behind slow count in Bihar: Covid precautions, more polling stations

By 5.30 pm, the EC had counted roughly 2.7 crore or two-thirds of the total 4.11 crore votes polled. Of the 7,737 scheduled rounds of counting, 4,858 had been completed till 5.30 pm.

New Delhi | Updated: November 11, 2020 4:36:55 am
Bihar poll count delay, Bihar election vote count, Bihar election Covid precautions, Patna news, Bihar news, Indian express newsCounting of votes underway at a centre in Chhapra. (Source: PTI)

Counting of votes in Bihar progressed unusually slow Tuesday, and continued late into the night, given the increase in the number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) deployed in the state on account of Covid-19 precautions, the Election Commission (EC) said Tuesday.

By 5.30 pm, the EC had counted roughly 2.7 crore or two-thirds of the total 4.11 crore votes polled. Of the 7,737 scheduled rounds of counting, 4,858 had been completed till 5.30 pm.

To maintain social distancing, the EC had capped the maximum number of voters per booth at 1,000 — down from 1,500 in 2015. This prompted a 63 per cent increase in the number of polling stations — from 65,367 in 2015 to 1,06,526. More polling stations means more EVMs, and more EVMs means a longer wait for the final result. That apart, an almost 100% increase in the number of absentee votes (postal votes) — from 1.3 lakh in 2015 to 2.5 lakh — added to the wait.

The EC said it was in no hurry to announce the results. “The emphasis of the Commission is that the procedure and guidelines related to counting and Covid-19 are to be scrupulously and sincerely followed. The Commission has directed that the counting officials need not be in a haste or hurry to declare the results and they should follow all the procedures and take as much time as it is naturally required,” EC Director General Umesh Sinha said.

“Considering the above facts it is natural that it will take some more time than in normal time. You all are aware that the pandemic period is not a normal time… the results may come till late night,” he said.

Listing differences between the conventional counting process and counting in Bihar this time in view of Covid-19 precautions, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said the number of tables at each centre had been limited to seven, to ensure social distancing, as opposed to 14 under normal circumstances.

On average, each seat approximately had 35 rounds of counting. The counting centres increased from 38 to 55 to maintain the same speed of vote tabulation, Kumar said.

According to DEC Ashish Kundra, the counting process has been “absolutely glitch-free so far”, with no complaints being brought to Election Commission’s notice.

Dismissing doubts raised over the integrity of the EVMs by former BJP MP and Congress leader Udit Raj, DEC Sudeep Jain said that voting machines have time and again proved to be robust and tamper-proof and even the country’s top court has upheld the integrity of the machines.

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