Dont count EVM votes before postal ballots, INDIA bloc urges EC
INDIA bloc leaders met the Election Commission on June 2 with a slew of demands regarding counting norms

Don't count EVM votes before postal ballots, INDIA bloc urges EC

INDIA bloc delegation met the EC and submitted a memorandum asking the EC to ensure postal ballots are done first and their results declared before EVM voting is completed

Ahead of the counting of votes for Lok Sabha elections, a delegation of INDIA bloc leaders met the Election Commission on Sunday (June 2) to submit a memorandum involving the counting of postal ballots.

"In fact, the present issue will possess a direct impct on the subsequent general and assembly elections," read the memorandum submitted to the EC.

Nullify new guideline

One of the demands made by the INDIA bloc to the EC is to set aside a new guideline issued by them stipulating the counting of EVM votes first before the postal ballots. In the memorandum, the INDIA bloc quotes the statutory provision in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, which stated that the counting of postal ballots must be dealt/counted first. After which, the returning officer has to declare all the valid postal ballot votes, record the results and declare the same.

Even the Handbook for Returning Officer and Counting Agents, (August 2023) stated that the counting of postal ballots has to be initiated first. And according to an EC letter, it said that "Under no circumstances, the results of all the rounds of the EVM counting should be announed before finalising the postal ballot counting..."

However, the memorandum pointed out that the EC had withdrawn this instruction that the penultimate round of EVM counting should be taken up only after completion of postal ballot counting.

Bihar elections

Further, the INDIA bloc pointed out that the significant impact of the postal ballots votes was witnessed in the year 2020 during the Bihar elections, when the difference between the winning alliance and the other parties was only 12,700 votes for the entire state, whereas the total number of voters that had opted for postal ballots in Bihar were 52,000. These 12,700 votes accounted for only 0.03 per cent of the total votes cast but clearly changed the outcome of the entire election.

In fact, there was a huge outcry in Bihar, with the first election (which was conducted after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic), where the postal ballots were counted at the end of counting of EVM votes.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi termed the EC's decision to change a statutory rule through a guideline to enable counting of EVM votes before counting of postal ballots as "legally untenable".

The INDIA bloc demand is to urgently nullify the guidelines/notices/letters of ECI reversing this rule. They have asked the ECI to withdraw the letter and issue direction to returning officers to complete the counting of postal ballots and declare the results on the Returning Officers' table, before the final counting of EVMs.

Videograph transport of EVMs

Sitaram Yechury shares the demands of INDIA bloc to EC with the media

Meanwhile, CPM's Sitaram Yechury told the media that INDIA bloc leaders have also demanded that across all constituencies the process of bringing the EVMs and control units from strong rooms to the counting centre must be videographed and CCTVs should be installed in the corridors of the counting centres.
Based on past experience, Yechury alleged that counting officials often flout prescribed rules and when Opposition candidates demand that the rules mandated in the EC rulebook be followed, they are told to get this in writing from the EC. This is not possible on counting day, Yechury added.
Yechury said the INDIA bloc has demanded that EC must formally issue stern instructions to all counting officials to follow the rulebook in letter and spirit.
The INDIA leaders have also demanded that at every counting centre officials must declare various details concerning the EVMs and control units, the total votes polled in each EVM, time at which the machines and control units were sealed, time at which they were opened, etc., to the counting agents of all candidates.
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