Explained: Why is Bihar assembly election being mentioned before the results of Lok Sabha elections, why is there a ruckus over postal ballots

Ananya Shroff
5 Min Read

New Delhi: After the completion of voting and the allegations of the opposition, the Election Commission has responded to the allegations by holding a press conference on Monday. The Commission has clearly said that the counting of postal ballots will begin first. Half an hour after that we will start counting EVMs. There is no doubt about this. In fact, the opposition had given this memorandum to the Election Commission demanding that the postal ballots be counted before the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). This time the number of postal ballots is expected to increase. The opposition had cited the Bihar Assembly elections in its memorandum.

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The opposition had said that the postal ballots should be counted first

On June 2, the opposition parties had demanded from the Election Commission that during the counting of votes on June 4, the postal ballots should be counted first and only after that the EVM votes should be counted.

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Postal ballots will be counted first until the 2019 elections

Until the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the counting of postal ballots was done first and then the counting of EVM votes started 30 minutes later. The counting of all postal ballots was completed before the counting of EVM votes started.

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What was the matter in Bihar which the opposition cited?

In the memorandum given to the Election Commission, the opposition has mentioned the Bihar assembly elections held in 2020. In fact, the total margin of victory in the 2020 Bihar assembly elections was 12,700 votes. At the same time, the number of postal ballots cast there at that time was 52,000. At that time, the postal ballot papers were counted after the counting of EVM votes in Bihar. This is the reason why the opposition has appealed to the Commission to withdraw its 2019 guideline.

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Why did the opposition say that Rule 54-A should be followed?

The opposition demanded that the counting be done as per Rule 54-A of the Rules of Election, 1961, which states that the Returning Officer will first count the postal ballots. At the same time, CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury demanded that the 'control unit' of EVMs should be taken through a CCTV-monitored corridor. Earlier, Congress leader Ajay Maken accused 'X' that the counting agents of the contesting candidates were not being allowed to go to the table of the Assistant Returning Officer. The Commission immediately denied it and said that the counting agents have been allowed to go to the table of the Returning Officer or Assistant Returning Officer.

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What was in the Election Commission's 2019 guidelines?

The Election Commission had issued a guideline in February 2019. It said that under no circumstances should the results of all rounds of EVM vote counting be declared before the counting of postal ballots is completed.

Now what are the rules of counting and how is it done?

The Election Commission issued a new guideline on 18 May 2019. It said that EVMs can also be counted during the counting of postal ballots. Counting of VVPAT slips can be completed only after the counting of EVMs is completed. The Commission argued that the number of postal ballots has increased significantly through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System. Apart from this, random counting of VVPAT slips of 5 polling stations was also necessary and it was taking time, so this process was changed.

The rules for recounting postal ballots have also changed

The Election Commission has also changed the rule of mandatory recounting of postal ballots. Earlier the rule was that if the margin of victory is less than the total number of postal ballots, then the postal ballots could be recounted. According to the new rule, if the margin of victory is less than the total number of postal ballots, then the postal ballots declared invalid during counting will be re-examined.

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