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Counting of Votes : Elaborate Procedure

Posted by Admin on October 17, 2014 | Comment

The election process doesn’t get over till the results are declared. After the polling comes to an end, the next major responsibility for the Election Commission (EC) is to supervise the process of counting votes and ensure that no foul play could mar the true spirit of elections.

Counting of Votes

Laws Guiding the Process of Counting Votes

The Election Commission of India adheres to the Representation of People Act, 1951, which provides for the conduct of Parliamentary elections and also elections to the state legislatures. It enlists the steps to be taken under different circumstances arising in connection with such elections. The EC also refers to the Conduct of Election Rules of 1961 to get clarity on the dos and don’ts pertaining to the process of vote counting.

Responsibility of the Returning Officer

The section 64 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 gives Returning Officer the responsibility of supervising the entire process of counting. Similarly, the provision of section 66 under the same Act guarantees him the authority to declare the results on the completion of counting, unless any other directive was given by the poll panel.

According to section 67, the Returning Officer has to report the result to the Election Commission and to other authorities (such as Secretary State Legislature/Parliament) who have the mandate to get it published in official Gazette. Moreover, the time and place for counting is fixed by the Returning Officer. The same has to be disseminated in written form to the election candidates at least one week prior to the date of poll notice.

Rules Related To Counting of Votes

The presence of contesting candidate, election agent, and the counting agents at the counting venue is permissible according to the section 64 of the R. P. Act. When it comes to appointment of Counting Agents, the Act gives candidates the authority to appoint them as per the EC’s directions . However, the number of agents shall not exceed 16 for each counting venue.

Apart from the persons authorised by the election panel and the counting staff and contesting candidates (along with their counting agents), no one else is allowed to enter the counting venue.  It’s mandatory for the Returning Officer to read out provision of section-128 before the counting commences to remind the counting staff about the secrecy of voting. Even before the counting begins, the counting staff and counting agents conduct a detailed scrutiny of the EVMs to ensure that the control unit is not tampered with. In case the seals are not found intact, the EC is informed about it.

Arrangements at the Counting Venues

The Returning Officer and the observer are stationed at the counting venue and they are allocated one table each. The contesting candidates are allowed to sit at the Returning Officer’s Table to watch the counting process. To prevent candidates and their agents from handling the EVMs, adequate barricade is constructed for each counting table, which doesn’t generally exceed 14.

The counting staff is equipped with pro forma to record votes secured by each candidate. It’s mandatory to have loudspeaker at the counting venue to disseminate information on to public and media. Except the official video camera, videography by third parties such as journalists is prohibited inside the counting hall.

Not even the official camera can photograph the actual votes recorded on an EVM or ballot paper. Although the entire vote counting process is videotaped by the officially designated videographer, the CD of such videography is kept in safe custody.

Counting of Votes & Announcement of Results

According to the Section 54A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, the ballot papers are to be counted first. EVM counting begins 30 minutes after the start of ballot counting. The Returning Officer has to ensure that the counting of ballot papers is completed before the penultimate round of EVM counting begins.

After all rounds of counting are completed and final result sheet is made ready in FORM-20, the Returning Officer has to pause for two minutes before signing it and announcing the result. During this time, the candidates or their agents can request for recount. The final decision rests on the Returning Officer on whether to comply with the request. He considers the rationality of the request and if it’s found unreasonable, the application is rejected. Following this, the Returning Officer gets the Observer’s approval and announces the result.