A few changes likely at counting centres

In the wake of a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, the election officials are contemplating a few changes at the counting centres.

Increasing the number of halls or reducing the number of tables, increasing the gap between counting tables and avoiding over-crowd are among the measures being considered by the District Election Officers and the Returning Officers. They were among the points discussed during the video conferencing by Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo with the Collectors cum District Election Officers on Monday.

The focus of the meeting was centred around the ways and means to check the spread of the COVID-19 infection. While the DEOs explained the arrangements being made in the counting centres, they presented detailed reports about the size of the halls and the gap to be provided between the officials and agents of the candidates.

As per the standard practice, 14 tables will be provided with a distance of one to two metres in a hall. Each table will be manned by a counting supervisor, an assistant and a micro-observer. There will be provision to accommodate an agent for all candidates. The agents would be standing in a close quarter. The meeting discussed the ways and means to increase or decrease the counting halls in accordance with the COVID-19 safety protocol.

“There were some suggestions made to follow the safety norms to check the spread of the COVID-19 virus. No decision has been taken so far. But there will be some changes in the counting centres. They will be done in accordance with the Election Commission’s directives,” Prashanth M. Wadnere, Collector cum District Election Officer, Karur, said.

As far as the counting centres in Karur were concerned, the halls were compact and there was no need to increase them. However, officials are of the view that there will be literally no space if all 77 candidates in Karur constituency and 44 candidates in Aravakurichi constituency depute each one to 14 tables.

“We have requested the Independent candidates of Karur and Aravakurichi candidates to limit their agents in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation. Some of them have agreed not to appoint agents except for their presence. We hope that better sense will prevail,” said a senior officer in Karur.

In Tiruchi, Collector cum District Election Officer S. Divyadharshini held an all-party meeting here on Tuesday to solicit the views of political parties on enforcing COVID-19 norms.

“If we need to enforce safety norms, it is inevitable to reduce the number of tables to restrict the number of officials and agents. It will lead to an increase in the number of rounds,” an official, who took part in the meeting said. He said that an idea had been mooted to make compulsory for the officials and the agents to get themselves tested for COVID-19.

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