PATNA: Going by all indications, Bihar is all set to go to the polls in October-November despite a rapid rise in coronavirus cases. State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) HR Srinivasa told this paper that it would be a big challenge: the number of ballot papers will go up following an amendment in the rules on Thursday under which voters above 65 years of age, suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients can use postal ballots.
Srinivasa said voters, who opt to come to the polling booths for casting their votes, will be given small wooden sticks to push the EVM button as a safety measure against corona infection. Also, if a voter is spotted standing in a queue without wearing a mask, a free three-ply khadi mask would be given to him by the EC, besides making proper arrangement for hand-washing.
For social distancing at polling booths, election officials are working on keeping only 1,000 voters at one polling booth. The most challenging task would be ensuring voting for over 18,000 centenarian voters in addition to those above 65 years of age, who could prefer postal ballots.
“The state will have to create 45% new polling booths, tentatively depending on the finalisation of electoral rolls to ensure one polling booth for every 1,000 voters.” Currently Bihar has 1.98 crore voters of 32-39-year age group besides 8.70 lakh voters of above 70 years of age. “This year, around 7.43 lakh new voters have been added to the electoral rolls,” Srinivasa said.
As per official figures, there are 2.37 lakh voters in 90-99-year age group, 10.59 lakh to 80-89-year of age, 31 lakh to 72-79-year age and 33.27 lakh to 62-69 age group. “Ensuring safety to the poll personnel and the electorate would be the top priority for us at a time when the state is battling the pandemic,” Srinivasa said, adding the EC would provide 3-ply khadi masks and bacteria-proof hand gloves. On whether the EC has decided to go with online polling, Srinivasa said the Commission would have to take a call on it.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)