September 26, 2020

Plea to relax voter-booth numbers

Patna: The Bihar government has urged the Election Commission of India to relax the per polling booth voters’ number criteria for the state.

The state is of the view that the norm suggested by the commission would lead to massive increase in number of polling booths, which in turn, would put additional pressure on its resources during elections. The ECI had recently suggested that the number of voters per polling booth should ideally be 1,200 in rural areas and 1,400 in urban areas. The suggestion had been put forward as use voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) has to be done at every polling booth.

As use of VVPAT slows down the voting rate due to increase in time consumed by a voter, it was suggested to reduce the voters’ load on polling booths so that voting percentage didn’t get adversely hit because of this. In 2014 general elections, the voters’ number criteria followed was 1,400 and 1,600 voters for rural and urban polling booths. The new norm would come into play in 2019 general elections.

“We have written a letter to the ECI urging it to relax the norm in case of Bihar and fix 1,400 voters per booth both for rural and urban polling booths,” a senior state official said.

He said Bihar being a densely populated state (1,102 per sqkm) already had 62,780 polling booths and if the ECI suggestion is followed the number of polling booths would cross the one-lakh mark whereas in case the ECI gives relaxation to the state the polling booth number would be a little over 70,000 after rationalisation.

“We hope that the ECI would understand our point and give relaxation to Bihar as had been given in earlier norms when the state had been allowed to have around 1,600 voters per polling booth both in rural and urban areas,” added the official.

Explaining the reason of worry over likely increase in the polling booth numbers, the official said during elections, the state government needs to depute its own personnel for voting duty. This is in addition to the state personnel who too are engaged in security-related arrangements along with the central paramilitary forces during polls.

“We are having five to six phases of voting because of security and other related reasons. If the polling booth number increases substantially the duration of voting would increase further,” said the official.

Courtesy: The Telegraph

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