This note deals with issues pertaining to Electronic Voting Machine, Awareness and Strong Room arrangements.
- As we are aware that ensuing West Bengal Assembly Election 2011 shall be conducted with the help of Electronic Voting machines like previous elections. The ECI has issued several guidelines with respect to handling, checking, randomization, commissioning and storage of EVMs.
- As per the ECI guidelines, extensive awareness programme including hands-on training/demonstration needs to be organised for the voters, the Govt/semi-Govt. offices, the officers and staff members of election-related cells, police officers, representatives of CBOs/NGOs, members of electronic and print media and all political parties about the Electronic Voting machine. It is to be noted and ensured that EVM used for awareness and training shall not repeat shall not be used for the conduct of poll.
- As decided, the awareness video footage or CD should be widely circulated among all the cable operators, local channels, cinema halls and video halls for their screening. Besides, we should also ensure that mobile vans with a TV set and DVD player should go around the district for screening the CD for EVM awareness among voters. They should also have with them a dummy or actual EVM for voter awareness.
- A voter awareness counter/Cell should be opened in the district headquarters immediately. Similar cells should be opened in all the SDO/BDO offices. All these cells should widely circulate their specified helpline numbers for voter awareness/inquiry/complaints. These cells should be manned by such officers/staff members who are duly knowledgeable about the various poll-related matters and should also pass on such information relating to electoral roll/EPIC as might be required by the voter or a member of the public. The EVM Cell shall coordinate their action with the Media Cell in this regard.
- The District Website has good amount of poll-related information available. The voter or the Cells should also refer to the data on the district website for reference and update the same in case some discrepancy is detected.
- ECI has issued a detailed guideline for 1st level checking, 1st stage randomization and 2nd stage randomization of EVMs during the conduct of elections. The same should be strictly abided by.
- The Commission has also issued a detailed guideline and protocol for proper storage of EVMs in the strong rooms before and after of poll. The guidelines need to be scrupulously followed.
- It is also to be noted that the EVMs earmarked for training only shall be used for training of polling personnel, Micro Observers, contesting candidates, counting personnel and other election officials/staff members as per the schedule plan.
- The Cell shall also be responsible for proper commissioning of EVMs for the conduct of poll in this district. The commissioning of EVMs should be in presence of the recognised political parties, candidates or their election agents and their signatures should be obtained as and where required as per ECI instructions.
- The opening and closing of the Strong Rooms shall be as per ECI guidelines and in presence of the authorised representatives of the recognised political parties or candidates. Due advance notices should be issued to them for the purpose. They can also have their representatives to watch the strong rooms from a distance, if they so desire.
- The concerned officers shall make advance preparations before opening/closing of EVM strong rooms including ensuring attendance of electricians, videographers, authorised representatives of recognised political parties/candidates and availability of the sealing materials.
- Log book and register for movement of EVMs within and without the strong rooms should be scrupulously maintained as per ECI instructions.
- The security and safety arrangements for the strong rooms should be duly worked out in consultation with the authorities in the police and fire services departments.
- Access to Strong Rooms should be strictly restricted to such persons as specified by ECI.
- The District Cell will also monitor and provide guidance to the similar cells formed at Sub-divisional level.
The District Cells shall acquaint themselves immediately with instructions, guidelines and circulars issued by the ECI on the subject, from time to time along with relevant provisions mentioned in ROs / Presiding Officer’s Handbook and EVM manual etc. They shall coordinate the movement of EVMs during various training programme with the concerned cells, from district to Sub-divisional level and vice versa, at DCRC, Strong Room and counting venues.
All officers and members of the staff associated with these Cells shall duly coordinate their functions with members of other Cells.
With best wishes,
Dr. Saumitra Mohan, IAS.