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Bye-Elections Amid COVID-19: No Voter Will Be Left Out, Aims ECI

Bhubaneswar: Struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire world is facing challenging times over the past eight months. Amid a never-faced-before crisis, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is gearing up for the Bye-Elections which have been scheduled in November 2020.

In Odisha, two Assembly constituencies – Balasore and Tirtol will go to polls on November 3. To ensure, free fair and exhaustive polling across these two constituencies, in the midst of COVID crisis, the ECI’s focus is on postal ballot.

“Our mission is to ensure that no voter is left behind,” said Chief Electoral Officer, Odisha Sushil Kumar Lohani. The postal ballot facility has been extended to three categories of voters: Above 80 years old; Persons with Disabilities; and COVID-19 affected / suspected. “This category of voters can avail the postal ballot facility and exercise their franchise by staying at home,” said Lohani.

As per the CEO’s instructions the District Election Officers of Balasore and Jagatsinghpur and the Returning Officers for Balasore and Tirtol assembly constituencies have been conductign door-to-door surveys to sensitise the voters belonging to vulnerable groups.

As per latest reports, out of 15,253 such voters in Tirtol, 3,681 have opted for postal ballot while 9,677 have refused. In Tirtol, 1,496 voters could not be contacted despite repeated attempts, the CEO’s office informed.

Similarly, in Balasore out of 8,275 vulnerable category voters, 1,727 have opted for postal ballot while 902 could not be contacted. In Balasore, 3,503 such voters refused to avail postal ballot and chose to vote at their designated polling booths, said Lohani.

In Tirtol, out of 340 COVID affected/suspected voters, 130 have opted for postal ballot. However, in Balasore a meagre 7 eligible voters (affected with COVID) agreed to postal ballot. The rest preferred to vote physically at the polling stations, the CEO’s office informed.

As per the instructions of the Election Commission of India, the application in Form-12 for giving consent for voting through postal ballot was sent to these voters through the Booth Level Officers between October 10 and 14.

“Special polling parties are being formed for all the three categories who will visit the houses of each voter who have opted for postal ballot. The parties will be accompanied by security personnel and videography team for collecting the postal ballot papers after October 20,” Lohani added.

Sushil Kumar Lohani, CEO, Odisha

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