Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To, All Returning Officers, SDOs, ADM/OC/BDOs/staff members Counting Cell

Dear Colleagues,

      After having completed a very peaceful and successful election on 23rd April, 2011, we need to focus ourselves immediately on the final leg of the election process i.e. the counting of polled EVMs on 13th May, 2011. While one is sure that you shall accomplish this job also as well as you have done in the past, I just thought to bring the following to your notice for refreshing your memory:

Basic Preparations in the run-up to Counting:
  1. ROs/AROs shall check for themselves the arrangements in their respective Counting Halls including PA system, computer, lighting, materials and electric connection.
  2. AROs shall familiarize themselves with their counting personnel and verify with them any matter deemed necessary for the conduct of smooth counting process.
  3. SDOs shall also coordinate with various Cell-In-charges including those relating to Media Cell, Data Transmission Cell, Nazareth, Material Cell and Control Room for better coordination and optimum output.
  4. Statutory Cell shall prepare a ‘Key Person-wise Duty Chart’ (as illustrated below) for convenience.
  5. There shall be a Black/White Board in all halls.
  6. Meeting with political parties, police and key counting personnel shall be held at SDO levels.
  7. Training for counting personnel and Micro Observers should be carefully planned and completed well in advance.
  8. Counting details including the number of halls, tables and counting personnel shall be shared with the political parties during meeting with them. A copy of the arrangement could be supplied, if demanded.
  9. Counting of all Postal Ballots meant for each AC is to be done in a single Hall
  10. Media Cell shall be equipped with a TV with cable connection, a PA system, telephone and fax. Adequate seating arrangements for media persons shall be there.
  11. Permitted media-men with identity cards to be allowed inside the Counting Hall in small batches to take photographs of the proceedings inside the hall. DICO/SDICO shall personally accompany them during such visits. However, there shall not be any camera/video camera with pedestals/tripod/fixed stands.
  12. There shall be CCTV in each Counting Hall with a common Control Room with monitors to watch the proceedings in all the counting halls.
  13. Videography shall be done of the entire counting process including that of opening and closing of the Strong Rooms.
  14. There shall be arrangements for generators as additional power back-up with electrician/mechanic being there in the premises during the entire process of counting.
  15. Fire Tender shall be requisitioned in advance for being stationed in the counting premises.
  16. PA system inside the halls shall be so arranged so that one mike addresses people inside the hall while the other addresses the people outside the hall, as far as the booths of the political parties and Media Cell.
  17. RO shall announce results himself using the PA system at the end of every round.
  18. The Communication Cell shall be readied in advance for transmission of round-wise results to CEO Office and ECI as per instructions.
  19. There shall be specified persons who shall act as go-between for immediate compilation and communication of the results.
  20. Medical Unit shall be there at every counting venue for provisioning of any emergent service.
  21. Randomization of counting personnel to specific counting tables should be done at 5 a.m. on the dot in presence of Hon’ble Observers. The same could be done manually or through computer software. The entire process should be videographed.
  22. The officials, who have not been assigned any table, would form a reserve pool.
  23. Reserve Counting Personnel should be at pre-decided space and should not move till the end of counting process.
  24. Appointment letter and identity cards should be issued to all counting personnel including Counting Supervisors, Assistant Counting Supervisors, contingent menials, Group ‘D’ staff, Micro Observers and one Additional Counting Assistant for Hon’ble Observers.
  25. The Returning Officers shall ensure that all statutory reports are timely sent. Advance preparations shall be made in this regards.
  26. Certificate of Election shall be prepared and issued by the District Election Cell for uniformity and conformity.
  27. Communication and Transmission Cell shall be properly equipped and trained for timely transmission of all requisite information and reports.
  28. The table-wise result shall be countersigned by the Hon’ble Observer before announced by RO/ARO.
  29. There shall be dedicated personnel for SMS communication with CEO Office.
  30. Counting Kits to be procured in advance and placed on counting table on the day prior to actual counting.
  31. Pigeon Holes for postal ballot counting should also be arranged and put in place.
  32. Vehicle Permits for counting hall entry should be issued in advance and a list of such permits should be handed over to the police for checking the same.
  33. The issues relating to counting personnel randomization, random checking of EVMs, Micro Observer assistance and randomization of staff to assist Hon’ble Observer, Strong Room opening, two additional representative of political parties to be allowed for making food arrangements, mobile use restrictions and such other issues should sorted out with Hon’ble Observers in advance.
  34. There shall be a separate arrangement for the counting of postal ballots. The candidates/their Election Agents shall be advised to nominate a separate counting agent.
  35. One ARO shall be dedicated to handle the postal ballot counting. The Observer and RO should closely monitor the counting of postal ballots and EVMs simultaneously.
  36. Before finalizing the tally of postal ballot counting, the RO shall personally verify the invalid and rejected postal ballots and also verify candidate-wise tally.
  37. In case, the victory is being decided only on account of postal ballot counting, there should be a mandatory re-verification of postal ballot counting in presence of Hon’ble Observer and RO.
  38. Whenever such r e-verification/re-counting is done, the entire proceeding should be videographed without compromising the secrecy of ballot and the video cassettes/CD should be sealed in a separate envelope for future reference.

Things to Remember on the Day of Counting:
  1. Attendance Counters on the day of counting should be adequate in number and suitably manned.
  2. There shall be a Display Board with Hall-wise duty chart for counting personnel.
  3. The Counting Staff shall have their tiffin outside the Counting Hall in the morning itself before entering the Counting Hall.
  4. None shall be allowed to carry food or any beverages inside the Counting Hall.
  5. Part II of Form 17-C shall be signed by all concerned including counting agents and counting supervisor after tallying.
  6. Signatures of counting agents shall be obtained on round-wise proceedings as drawn for the purpose.
  7. Secrecy of Vote shall be maintained and Oath of Secrecy to this effect shall be administered to all before start of counting.
  8. 630 a.m shall be the reporting time for all the counting personnel and officers.
  9. The Hall-in-Charge shall take his/her seat at 7 a.m in the morning and ensure that other personnel have also entered the Hall.
  10. The Counting Supervisor should check their counting materials as per the check-list given.
  11. The postal ballots should reach ARO I/C at 7.30 who should start sorting them right away.
  12. The opening of Strong Room for taking out postal ballots should also be informed to all concerned in advance.
  13. The EVM Strong Room shall be opened at 7 a.m in the morning and EVMs should reach destined halls by 7.40 a.m sharp and EVM for a table should be ready for counting by 8 a.m sharp.
  14. Postal Ballot, as usual, shall be taken up first for the counting.
  15. EVMs shall be counted after immediately after the postal ballot counting is taken up.
  16. List of round-wise EVMs should be with the ARO concerned.
  17. There shall be a dedicated official who shall work as a Floor Supervisor and shall monitor the movement of EVMs and supply of 17-C, PRO Diary and Declaration.
  18. One officer shall be in-charge of statutory report returns and shall also coordinate with the District Control Room.
  19. The Observer shall randomly pick up any of the counted Control Units for checking results.
  20. There shall be some randomly selected staff from the Reserve Pool for assisting Hon’ble Observers.
  21. Counting Officials/Agents should be pre-informed about parallel checking of two EVMs from every round by Hon’ble Observers.

Strong Room and Sealing:
  1. The opening of Strong Room for taking postal ballots should also be informed to all concerned in advance.
  2. The EVM Strong Room shall be entered 7 a.m in the morning and EVMs should reach destined halls by 7.40 a.m sharp and EVM for a table should be ready for counting by 8 a.m sharp.
  3. Strong Rooms should be properly barricaded to preempt any direct access to the same.
1The candidate, his election agent or authorised representative could be present during the opening/closing of the EVM/Postal Ballot Strong Room and can put their signatures/seal on the sealing material.
  1. The Log Book for the Strong Room shall be maintained for movement of EVMs within and without the Strong Room.
  2. Sealing of EVMs and other election papers shall continue as the EVMs are counted at the place earmarked for the purpose.
  3. Sealing process shall also be videographed.
  4. Political parties’ or candidates’ representative shall be allowed to put their seal or signatures.
  5. Proceedings of the sealing process shall be made as per standard format.
  6. Sealing Agents shall also be there as per instructions.
  7. Secret seal shall be put on inside stuff and RO seal shall be there on the outside of trunks.

Security Arrangements for Counting:

  1. Utmost order and peace shall be maintained inside and outside the Counting Premises.
  2. The entire counting premises should be suitably sanitized.
  3. No mobile phone, cigarettes, lighter et al shall be allowed inside the Counting Premises. Arrangements for deposit of such personal effects against token shall be made at the entrance.
  4. A senior Executive Magistrate shall be posted at the entrance to identify the staff and officers.
  5. Vehicles of only pre-decided officers shall be allowed inside the counting premises
  6. A senior police officer shall be in-charge of overall maintenance of law and order within and without the premises. All aspects of security should be checked and verified.
  7. The identity cards of all officer and staff members/counting personnel should be carefully checked.
  8. Crowd Management outside the Counting Premises should be carefully planned.
  9. Booths of principal parties/candidates should be suitably located at a safe distance from each other.
  10. Three-tier cordoning system of security should be in place.
  11. First Cordon should be meant for checking Photo Identity Cards and proper frisking. Only female constables shall frisk female counting personnel or counting agents.
  12. Second and Third Cordons checking should be carefully executed. There shall be no frisking at this level unless felt otherwise.
  13. People allowed in Counting Hall include Hon’ble Observers, district election officials and counting personnel with proper identity cards other than police, Micro Observers, Counting Supervisors, Assistant Counting Supervisors, Candidates, Election Agents and Counting Agents.
  14. Police officials shall not enter the Counting Halls unless and until called in for assistance.
  15. Counting Agents/Election Agents shall be allowed entry only if they produce the second copy of the Appointment Letter after duly completing and signing the declaration contained therein under RO authority.
  16. The Counting Premises shall be a ‘No Smoking Zone’.
  17. None other than Hon’ble Observers, DEO, RO and AROs shall be allowed to carry their mobile phones inside the counting premises. However, the mobile phones shall not be allowed to be used inside the Counting Hall.
  18. Police shall ensure against loitering inside the Counting Premises.
  19. Utmost discipline and vigil shall be maintained inside the premises.
  20. Proper prior planning and security arrangements shall be made to tackle unforeseen law and order problems in the aftermath of declaration of results. Utmost vigil shall be maintained during the victory processions/rallies of candidates/parties.
  21. Vehicle checking for transportation of arms, liquor and cash shall be thoroughly done in the run upto and till the day of counting.
  22. A close watch shall be maintained over the activities outside the Counting Premises.

Counting Agents:
1There can be one counting agent appointed by the candidate or his/her election agent for each table.
  1. Appointment Letter to the Counting Agent is to be given in Form-18.
  2. Identity Cards shall be issued by RO on receipt of names of counting agents along with two stamp size photographs by 10th May, 2011.
  3. There could be one counting agent for each ARO’s table as well.
  4. Each counting agent shall have a badge indicating the name of the candidate, table number along with counting agent’s full signature.
  5. Seating Arrangements for Counting Agents shall have the following order: Recognised National Party-Recognised State Party-Recognised State Party of Other States permitted reserved symbols-Registered Unrecognized Party-Independents.
  6. Candidates or his/her election agents are free to move around inside the Hall.

Random Checking of EVM by Hon’ble Observer:
  1. There would be a random checking of counted EVM by the Hon’ble Observer.
  2. The staff to assist the Hon’ble Observer for this cross-checking would be randomly selected from the Reserve Pool.
  3. The Additional Staff who will be randomly deployed by the Observer would be sitting at each of the 14 counting tables. They will be provided with an identity card by the DEO.
  4. At the closure of each round, Hon’ble Observer would randomly select any two EVM control units from amongst the Control Units of the concerned round which have been counted.
  5. He would then direct the counting staff, specially deployed for this purpose, to independently note down from the control units so selected, the details of the votes polled as indicated by the machine.
  6. This Additional Staff shall note down the details of votes exhibited by the EVMs being counted in each round in that table.
  7. He will be provided with a pre-printed statement on which there will be space for noting down the CU number, Round number, Table Number, PS number and thereafter the names of all the contesting candidates as they appear in the ballot paper.
  8. These details would then be compared with the details provided by the officials in the table-wise result to check for any discrepancy between the two.
  9. Care must be taken to ensure that the staff assigned for random checking is not aware of the details provided in the table-wise result.
  10. Any staff who is found to have wrongly noted the counting result would be taken off and replaced by another set of staff. Severe disciplinary action should then follow on the erring staff for their willful omissions and commissions.
  11. They will put their signature at the end of the statement and shall hand over the statement to the Hon’ble Observer after each round.
  12. The Observer/RO will cross-check the figures noted in Part-II of Form 17C as submitted by the counting staff with the additional statement submitted by the additional staff.

Instructions to the Counting Supervisor and Assistant Counting Supervisor:
  1. Check polling station number of EVM given along with the flow chart given.
  2. Open the case after breaking seal by a sharpener/blade.
  3. Show the address tag of EVM to the counting agents.
  4. Show the strip seal and open it.
  5. Show the paper seal number to agents and allow them to compare.
  6. Tear the green paper seal in a manner so that the paper seal number is preserved.
  7. Switch on the Control Unit.
  8. Press Result-1.
  9. Display unit of CU will show result.
  10. Part-II of Form 17-C is to be filled up accordingly.
  11. In case of discrepancy, if any, the same is to be noted in Part-II of Form 17C.
  12. Part-II of Form 17C is to be signed by both the supervisors and agents at counting table.
  13. Fill up From A with 17C very carefully, repeat, very carefully.
  14. Sending of filled up 17C and Form A to ARO’s table immediately.
  15. Ask the ARO to provide the CU of EVM meant for his table for next round.
  16. Carry on this system till the last round in his table is completed.
  17. Draw the proceedings as per format be given by ARO.

Immediately After Completion of Detailed Counting, RO shall ensure:

i)                    Preparation of Final Result Sheet in Form-20
ii)                   Dispatch of one original hard copy and one soft copy of Form-20 to CEO by Special Messenger on 14th May, 2011.
iii)                 Declaration of Result in Form 21D.  One copy (original) of signed 21D to be sent immediately to :
a)      E.C.I
b)      Union Ministry of Law & Justice
c)      The Chief Secretary of Government of West Bengal
d)      The Secretary to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly

Two copies (original) 21D to be sent to CEO on 14th May, 2011 by Special Messenger.

iv)                 One copy (original) Form-21E to be sent to :
a)      E.C.I
b)      Secretary to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly

Two copies (original) 21E to be sent to CEO on 14th May, 2011 by Special Messenger.

Remember full name of the party must be written in party affiliation column of Form-21E

v)                  After declaration of election result, following documents are to be sent to CEO:

a)      Report on the election by Returning Officer (two-copies)
b)      Check Memo (original) ( one copy)
c)      One copy of certificate of election (Form-22)
d)      Check slip (original) (one copy) for notification
e)      Two unused ballot papers (with the words “Cancelled for record in the ECI) written on reverse side of each ballot paper under the seal and signature of Returning Officer).
The above salient points are only illustrative and shall be read with in any other supplementary and subsequent orders issued in this regard by the Election Commission of India.
With best wishes,

 Dr. Saumitra Mohan, IAS,
(District Magistrate and District
 Election Officer, Birbhum).


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