Mysuru: Even as public campaigning for May 12 elections coming to close at 6 pm today and just a day remaining for voting, the District Administration and Election Commission are preparing for the counting day on May 15.
All the logistics — from the transportation of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), Control Units and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trial (VVPAT) machines from the booths to the counting centres to the preparations at the counting centres, security and other related aspects — have been worked out and are being implemented in full swing.
Usually, the JSS College on Ooty Road and the Maharani’s College on JLB Road were used to count votes. This year, however, the administration has chosen the newly-built Maharani’s College of Commerce and Management at Paduvarahalli and the NIE Institute of Technology (NIEIT) at Koorgalli as counting centres. The change comes in the wake of high-profile and high-stake battles that is being witnessed this time.
COUNTING OF 11 CONSTITUENCIES
At the NIEIT, votes that have been cast at K.R. Nagar, Periyapatna, Varuna and Chamaraja will be counted. At the Maharani’s College in Paduvarahalli, votes cast at Krishnaraja, Narasimharaja, Chamundeshwari, Hunsur, Nanjangud, T. Narasipur and H.D. Kote constituencies will be counted. Size wise, the Maharani’s College counting centre will be the biggest one where the votes of seven constituencies will be counted.
At Maharani’s, seven strong rooms have been set up, one each for seven seats. Once the EVMs and related machines are shifted to respective rooms, they will be sealed by Returning Officers. Each EVM has a unique code number and after voting, the units must be deposited in the respective containers. All the containers have been numbered and coded and the officers will store the EVMs in the containers that have been numbered according to booths/ constituencies.
Since this time VVPATs are used, they are also numbered accordingly and coded. If there is any confusion regarding voting in any booth, VVPATs are taken out and the voter data is accessed by Returning Officer.
The strong rooms have only one entry point and double lock system. While one key is kept with Returning Officer (RO) and the other with Assistant RO of Assembly constituency. Other entry points of the strong rooms (including windows) are sealed in such a way that no one has access inside them. Entry point of strong room having EVMs has CCTV coverage round the clock.
A log book will be maintained by the security personnel where entries are made about date, time, duration and name(s) of anyone entering the strong rooms.
Apart from 70 CCTV cameras, focus lights have been installed in front of the strong rooms and surrounding the building. The authorities have established a dedicated electricity line to the strong rooms and have disconnected the original power supply. It has been designed in such a way that the lights have automatic sensors and they switch on as soon anybody enters the vicinity. Officials said that a dedicated power line was to prevent the incidents of short-circuit and sabotage.
In each hall where the votes are counted, 14 tables have been set up and each table has three chairs where only officers will sit. Each counting hall has separate entry as well as exit doors, duly guarded.
Each hall is divided into parts and is separated by temporary meshed partitions. Party agents and candidates have to stand behind the partition and they will have no contact with the officials counting the votes.
There will be separate entrance for candidates and their agents and counting officers. Public will not be allowed inside and the entire sections will be guarded by paramilitary forces. It is not possible for anybody either to move from one hall to another without coming out of the hall. Further, the partition is erected in such a way that it is impossible to slip any material from one section to the other.
The entry and exit points have been marked along with the place where candidates can stand. Officials told Star of Mysore that the arrangements are fool-proof with no room for doubt. A separate section has been set up where all the CCTV cameras are connected to monitors and there will be second-by-second monitoring by officers.
A dedicated server room has also been established and linked to 65 computers that will be used by election observers, District Election Officers and the media to transfer data to their respective newsrooms. Internet connections have been provided and a hotline with the Election Commission and the Police has been set up.
FOOD AND LOGISTICS
For the food and other logistics for officials, the quadrangle will be used and scaffoldings have been set up to divide the sections. Officials will use both the floors at Maharani’s College for counting while they will use only one floor at NIEIT.
As Maharani’s College will host the counting of the high-profile Chamundeshwari constituency where Chief Minister Siddharamaiah is fighting a bitter electoral battle with his former aide G.T. Devegowda, there are chances of people crowding the college. To prevent this, a compound wall is being constructed on a brisk pace and there will be restricted access.
A three-tier cordoning system has been set up at the counting premises to prevent the entry of unauthorised persons. The periphery around the counting campus has been demarcated as pedestrian zone. No vehicles will be allowed within this perimeter except for official vehicles.
While the security inside of the compound wall will be managed by the paramilitary forces including Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Rapid Action Force, the outside security will be manned by different units of the city Police.
No person without duly issued authority letter or photo ID-card issued by the concerned election officer or media pass will be allowed to cross the gate.
A senior Police officer will be posted at the entrance to control crowd and regulate entry.
Stringent frisking will be made by the security personnel to ensure that no prohibited items like matchbox, arms etc. are carried inside the counting halls.