The security of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in strong rooms, especially in Naxal-affected and other sensitive areas, have now become a major concern for the district election officers (collectors) after the completion of Phase-I of the polls on April 16.
The EVMs will remain in the strong rooms till May 16 when counting begins across the country.
After the polls, the EVMs have been shifted from the polling booths to the strong rooms at the counting centers. State armed police force and central paramilitary forces (CPMFs) have been guarding the strong rooms without any exception with a two-tier round the clock security. The outer-layer security is provided by State Armed Police and the inner by CPMF (if available), otherwise State Armed Police is engaged, a senior police official told HT.
Necessary fire fighting equipment have also been installed in the strong rooms to meet any emergency. No unused EVMs, either used for training or for voters’ awareness or used as poll day reserve, can be kept in the strong rooms.
In certain states, where the number of candidates in a constituency has exceeded 64, the EC has also allowed conventional ballot boxes and ballot papers. The instructions in this regard said, “Adequate number of EVMs have been made available to all CEOs to enable them to ensure smooth conduct of poll in the forthcoming parliamentary Elections 2009. However, in an EVM, there is provision for a maximum of 64 candidates. In the event of number of candidates being more than 64, the conventional ballot boxes and ballot papers shall have to be resorted to.”
On the counting day, the postal ballot counting will be taken up first and after a 30-minute gap the EVM counting will begin. Under no circumstances, should the results of all the rounds of EVM counting be announced before finalizing the postal ballot counting.
The EC instructions say, “In case, the victory is being decided only on account of postal ballot counting there should be a mandatory re-verification. In the presence of Observer and Returning Officer, all the postal ballot papers rejected as invalid as well as the votes counted in favour of each and every candidate shall be once again be verified and tallied. The observer and Returning Officer shall record the findings of the re-verification and satisfy themselves before finalizing and the result”.
In certain polling booths, EVMs were required to be replaced after commencement of poll. The EC instructions were followed up strictly to sort out the problems, officials said.
Such situation arises when the EVMs develop problems in the middle of poll. The EC instructions in this regard say, “When replacement EVMs are used, the Presiding and Polling Officers should ensure that the requirement of conducting mock poll should be fulfilled in the case of new EVMs also, and the new EVMs should be put to use only after conducting the mock poll, clearing of the data of mock poll and recording the certificate of mock poll, as in the case of the originally allotted EVMs”.