Mysuru: Lakhs of electronic voting machines will be unsealed in the country on Thursday (May 23) to know people’s verdict in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections held over seven phases from April 11 to May 19. Over 90 crore people have cast their votes across 10 lakh booths in 542 seats (total 543 and polls were countermanded in Vellore).
The stage is set for counting with elaborate security arrangements in place at all district headquarters including Mysuru where counting will take place at Maharani’s College of Commerce and Management on Valmiki Road in Paduvarahalli (Vinayakanagar). Counting would begin at 8 am and the first trends would emerge by around 11 am.
Strong room to open at 8 am
The strong room set up to store the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMS) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines will be opened at 8 am in the presence of Deputy Commissioner Abhiram G. Sankar who is also the District Electoral Officer and Returning Officer for Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha constituency, General Observer and contesting candidates or their agents.
A dry run of counting of votes and Online Data Entry training was held this morning for the counting staff. All additional returning officers, returning officers, information officers and system administrators tested networks and applications as well as the personnel and infrastructure stationing.
Speaking to Star of Mysore, Abhiram Sankar said that the counting software was being checked by officers. “We have drawn two high-speed internet connections. In each counting hall, a maximum of 14 tables have been put up and machines that would come in the first round, their results will be compiled and uploaded on the ‘Suvidha’ app of the Election Commission where there will be synchronised and real-time update of election results of the country,” he said.
Postal ballots first
The counting will commence at 8 am with postal ballots (Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) for service voters). Thirty minutes later, the EVMs are brought in. The counting staff and agents inspect EVMs before opening it. Then, the counting of votes begins. The EVM is powered on and the seal over the ‘Result’ button is pierced. The button is then pressed and it displays the total number of votes recorded for each candidate at a particular polling station.
After counting for one round is over, EVMs are to be resealed. The Returning Officer waits for two minutes, during which any candidate who believes there has been a discrepancy can ask for a recount. The Returning Officer decides if the appeal to recount is valid. After the EVM counting is over, the VVPAT counting will commence.
The Supreme Court has made it clear that random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs will take place in five polling booths per Assembly segment. With VVPAT counting, the results are likely to get delayed by five to six hours.
The tallying process will only begin after the last round of counting. However, to ensure that there is a single source of authentic data, the EC has emphasised that round-wise data must be entered into Suvidha app. Officials can log into the app and feed in the data. This will be done before the round results are declared.
No carrying of phones
Barring supervising counting officers, other people on poll duty are banned from carrying mobile phones inside the counting centre. Cloak rooms have been arranged to store the phones of those entering the counting station.
All counting tables will have a computer and internet connection. In case of any problem or doubts, counting officers must bring them to the attention of the Assistant Returning Officers. Postal ballots will be tallied in the presence of an election officer and eight AROs. Officers at each of these tables will be allotted 500 postal ballots and a gazetted officer will preside.
Two CCTV cameras have been installed in each counting room and arrangements have been made to record the entire process on video. Private videographers too have been hired. This apart, there are over 80 CCTV cameras for overall surveillance and mikes have been set up to air the results at the conclusion of every round.