EC to extend polling hours by an hour in TN, other states

Chennai: Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Thursday announced the polling hours would be extended by an hour in Tamil Nadu and other States that are bound for Assembly polls this summer.

Arora, who led a full team of the Election Commission of India on a two-day visit to Chennai, said the decision to extend polling time during the COVID-19 global pandemic was taken on representations from political parties. “We discussed this and because of the physical distancing norms [that has to be followed as part of COVID safety protocol], we have decided to extend by one hour,” he told journalists. He, however, added that “the exact hours” will be announced along with the poll notification.

In another significant announcement, the CEC said that it has been decided to appoint the coordinator of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to the apex committee that decides where central forces must be deployed during elections. Until now such “randomisation” of central forces’ deployment was done by the State governments. Arora said this arrangement would not just be applicable for the five poll-bound States [West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Union Territory of Puducherry being the rest] but for the whole of India henceforth.

Notwithstanding opposition from many political parties, the CEC indicated that the poll body would go ahead with its decision of allowing those aged above 80 year to cast votes via postal ballots. He said during the recent Assembly elections in Bihar, the EC did not encounter any charges of malpractice in registration of postal ballots by senior citizens.

Asked about demands by parties to complete the counting process within a day or two of polling, he said it would not be possible as the results would affect the polling in other States. This was because not all States would face single phase polling. Some States might witness six or seven phased polls, he added.

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