Presently there are approximately 9,30,000 Polling Stations in the country, as compared to 8,30,866 Polling Stations set up during Lok Sabha election, 2009. This marks an increase of nearly 11.9 percent Polling Stations. This increase is largely due to rationalization of Polling Stations, which the Commission undertook in the recent years.
Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) at Polling Stations
The Commission has recently issued instructions to the Chief Electoral Officers of all States/ UTs to ensure that every Polling Station is equipped with Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) like drinking water, shed, toilet, and ramp for the physically challenged voters and a standard voting compartment etc.
Electronic Voting Machines (EVM)
The Commission has decided to use Electronic Voting Machines in all the polling stations of the country as was done in Lok Sabha Elections in 2004 and 2009. There are 14, 68,430 Control Units (CUs) and 14,95,430 Ballot Units (BUs) available in the country. Apart from this, manufacturers have been asked to manufacture and supply 2,51,650 Control Units and 3,82,876 Ballot Units, which are expected to be received by 31st March, 2014. With this, the country will have 17,20,080 Control Units and 18,78,306 Ballot Units. First Level Checking (FLC) of the available EVMs has been started in all the States/ UTs and has been completed in many places.
Commission has put in place several administrative safeguards for EVMs. These include, sealing of CU and BU with Pink Paper seals specially manufactured by Security Printing Press, Nasik; two stage randomization; mock poll by casting 1000 votes in at least 5% EVMs both during FLC and preparation of EVMs during candidate set operation, taking a sequential print of the 1000 votes cast during the mock poll at the preparation stage and showing it to representatives of political parties and candidates; mock poll by casting at least 50 votes on poll day, multiple thread seals on the EVM and green paper seal on the result section of the CU after mock poll. All of this is done in the presence of political party representatives and candidates, and their signatures are obtained on the seals and in the registers kept for this purpose. Polled EVMs are transported under armed escort and stored in strong rooms with a double lock system and guarded 24 × 7 by armed police. There is CCTV coverage of strong rooms and political parties and candidates are also allowed to keep a watch on them, round the clock.
Voter verifiable paper audit trail system (VVPAT)
On 14 August 2013 the Government of India amended the elections rules to permit the use the Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system. The first election to implement the new system was a by-election held in the 51 Noksen Assembly Constituency of Nagaland. Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system is introduced in 8 of 543 parliamentary constituencies as a pilot project in Indian general election, 2014. VVPAT is implemented in Lucknow, Gandhinagar, Bangalore South, Chennai Central, Jadavpur, Raipur, Patna Sahib and Mizoram constituencies. Generated slip tells voter to which party or candidate vote has been given and also includes name of voter, constituency and polling booth
"None of the above" voting option (negative vote)
"None of the above" is a proposed voting option in India that would allow voters who support none of the candidates available to them to register an official vote of "none of the above", which is not currently allowed under India election regulation. The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to offer the voter a None of the above button on voting machines; the government, however, has generally opposed this option.
On 27 September 2013, Supreme Court of India pronounced a judgement that citizen's of India have Right to Negative Vote by exercising None of the above (NOTA) option in EVMs and ballot papers. The judgement was passed on a PIL filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO in 2009. The Election Commission has implemented this option of "none of the above" voting option in EVM machines w.e.f. five states polls starting from November 2013. However it does not mean that if 'NOTA' gets highest votes then election will be conducted again, rather even in that case, the candidate with the highest votes will be treated as elected candidate.
Use of Information Technology
Commission uses Information Technology (IT) in a big way for three important purposes. These are - providing easier access to electors for service delivery, greater transparency and better election management. Examples of use of IT for easier access to service delivery include on-line application forms for inclusion of names and modifications and deletion of entries in electoral rolls; facility for electoral search on the website of CEOs and through SMS; Polling Station locations on maps on ECI website; use of Call centre with 1950 as the phone number for public grievances, etc. IT will be used to increase transparency by putting affidavits of candidates on website, electoral rolls in PDF form on the website, use of webcasting from Polling Stations, etc. Commission will use IT for better management of elections by applications such as SMS based poll monitoring, Election Monitoring dashboard for officers at all levels, EVM tracking through software, etc.
Model Code of Conduct
Consequent on the announcement of the Schedule for the General Elections through this Press Note, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for the Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates comes into operation with immediate effect from today itself in the entire country. This will be applicable to all Political Parties and to the Union and State Governments and UT Administrations. In pursuance of the judgement of Supreme Court dated 5th July 2013, in SLP(C) no. 21455 of 2008 (S.Subramaniam Balaji Vs. Govt. of T.N. & others) the Election Commission has framed Guidelines on Election Manifesto in consultation with recognized Political Parties. These Guidelines have been incorporated as part VIII of "Model Code of Conduct for Guidance of Political Parties & Candidates" and shall be applicable & implemented in Lok Sabha Elections - 2014 as part of MCC and for all future elections. The Commission calls upon all the Political Parties, Candidates and the Union and State Governments and UT Administrations to strictly adhere to the MCC. The Commission has made elaborate arrangements for ensuring the effective implementation of the MCC Guidelines. Any violations of these Guidelines would be strictly dealt with and the Commission re-emphasises that the instructions issued in this regard from time to time should be read and understood by all Political Parties, contesting candidates and their agents/ representatives, to avoid any misgivings or lack of information or understanding/ Interpretation.
Training of Election Officials
Training of election machinery is an important part of Election Management. Preparatory training for these General Elections have been imparted to Officials and Master Trainers of various levels and categories over the past year and are continuing. The endeavour of the Commission is to ensure that every person working in relation to these Elections is trained and prepared to discharge his or her responsibilities in an error-free manner, impartially and faithfully implementing the various guidelines and instructions of the Commission, in the field.
Conduct of Officials
The Commission expects all officials engaged in the conduct of elections to discharge their duties in an impartial manner, without any fear or favour. They are deemed to be on deputation to the Commission and shall be subject to its control, supervision and discipline. The conduct of all Government Officials who have been entrusted with election related responsibilities and duties would remain under constant scrutiny of the Commission and strict action shall be taken against those officials who are found wanting on any account.
The Commission has already given instructions that no election related official or Police officer of the rank of Inspector and above shall be allowed to 15 continue in his/ her home district. Besides, instructions have also been issued that election related officials including police officials of Inspector level and above who have completed three years in a district during last four years should be transferred out of that district. Police Officers of the rank of Sub Inspectors who have completed three years in a Sub Division/ AC or are posted in their home Sub Division/ AC shall be transferred out of that Sub Division and the AC.
The Commission has also instructed the State Governments not to associate any officer with the electoral process against whom charges have been framed in a Court of law, in any case.
District Election Plan
The District Election Officers have been asked to prepare a comprehensive district election plan in consultation with SPs and Sector Officers including the route plan and communication plan for conduct of elections. These plans will be vetted by the Observers taking into account vulnerability mapping exercise and mapping of critical polling station in accordance with Election Commission of India’s extant instructions.
Photo Voter Slips
To facilitate the voters to know where he/ she is enrolled as a voter at a particular polling station and what is his/ her serial number in the Electoral Roll, the Commission has directed that Voter Slip along with Photo (wherever present in the roll) will be distributed to all enrolled voters by the DEO. It has also been directed that the said Voter Slip should be in the languages in which electoral roll is published for that AC. These Voter Slips will also be accepted as identity proof of voters at Polling Stations.
Complaint Redressal Mechanism – Call Centre and Website
All States/ UTs shall have a complaint redressal mechanism based on a dedicated Call Centre and website. The National Call Centre number is 1950, which is a toll free number. The URL of the complaint registration website will be announced for each State/ UT by the respective Chief Electoral Officer separately. Complaints can be registered by making calls to the toll free Call Centre number or on the website. Action will be taken within a time limit on all complaints. 16 Complainants will also be informed of the action taken, by SMS, if they have registered their Mobile Phone number and also by the Call Centre. Complainants can also see the details of the action taken on their complaints, on the website.
Election Expenditure Monitoring
Election Commission has issued several instructions to curb the abuse of money power during the elections. These measures, inter alia, include deployment of Flying Squads, Static Surveillance Teams, Accounting Teams and Video Surveillance Teams, at AC level, to check distribution of cash or any other bribe among electors as well as setting up of Media Certification and Monitoring Committee, in each district, to keep a watch on election advertisements and Paid News by the candidates and Political Parties. Commission has also ordered that Shadow Observation Register shall be maintained for the election expenditure of each candidate and after each inspection of the candidate’s accounts; the same shall be scanned and uploaded on the website of the CEO, for public viewing.
Each candidate is required to open a separate bank account for election purpose and incur all election expenses from the said bank account, by issuing cheques. Besides, a campaign to spread awareness among the electors on ethical voting will be launched, after the announcement of election.
The Commission shall take effective measures to monitor production, storage and distribution of liquor during elections. The Commission has asked the Income Tax Department and the Financial Intelligence Unit of Government of India to keep watch on movement of cash during elections. The Political Parties and candidates are advised to exercise self-restraint in their spending during elections and submit correct accounts of election expenses to the Commission.
Ceiling of Election expenses for candidates
The election expenses ceiling for candidates has been revised by the Government of India vide Notification dated 28th February, 2014. As per the revised ceilings, the maximum limit of election expenses for a Lok Sabha Constituency is Rs.70.00 lakh per candidate for all States except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim. For these three States it is Rs.54.00 lakh per 17 candidates. For the Union Territories, the maximum limit is Rs.70 lakh per candidate for NCT of Delhi and Rs.54.00 lakh per candidate for other UTs.
For the Assembly Constituencies, the maximum limit is Rs.28.00 lakh per candidate for the bigger States and NCT of Delhi and Rs.20.00 lakh per candidate in the other States and Union Territory of Puducherry. Accordingly, in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha the limit of expenses for Assembly Constituencies is Rs.28.00 lakh per candidate and in Sikkim it is Rs.20.00 lakh per candidate.
Accounts of Candidates
It is mandatory under the election law for every contesting candidate to maintain and furnish a separate and true account of his/ her election expenditure. Under Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 only the expenses on account of travel of leaders or Star Campaigners of any Political Party concerned (whose names are communicated to the Commission and the CEO of the State/ UT within the prescribed period of 7 days from the date of notification) will be exempted from being included in the account of expenses of a candidate. All other expenses – incurred/ authorized for election campaign of the candidate are required to be included in the account of the candidate.
The Commission has already issued detailed guidelines on the manner in which accounts are to be maintained and submitted by the candidates and it is incumbent upon them to maintain a daily account of expenditure and to submit it for inspection to the Designated Officer/ Election Observer three times during the campaign period. To strengthen the monitoring of expenses, the Commission has taken special steps. A separate election expenditure monitoring division has been set up in the Commission to deal with information on poll expenses of the candidates and political parties. To assist the candidates, the Commission has prepared e-learning modules for maintaining their election expense accounts, and such modules are freely accessible on the Commission’s Website.
Accounts by Political Parties
All Political parties sponsoring candidates for the elections are required to maintain day to day accounts for all election campaign expenses and submit the accounts to the Commission within 90 days of Lok Sabha Elections and 75 days 18 of Assembly Elections. Such accounts will be uploaded on the website of the Commission for public viewing.
The Election Commission of India launched its Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme in end-2009 to enhance people’s participation in the electoral process. In these four and a half years various initiatives were undertaken to streamline the process of voter registration to facilitate citizens. Initiatives were also taken in the General Elections to the Assemblies of 23 States/ UTs since 2009 to make voting experience easy, accessible and voter friendly as well as remove the gaps both in information and motivation related to registration and voting through systematic interventions. These have given encouraging results, which are visible.
Comprehensive measures for voters’ education and awareness were taken up during the Summary Roll Revision process (in October – December 2013) across the country. These measures will continue during the electoral process. Chief Electoral Officers have been directed to ensure wide dissemination of election related information and also for carrying out Voter Education campaigns as well as adequate facilitation measures for ensuring wider participation of people in polling. State and District SVEEP plans have been approved by the Commission based on situation analysis on voter participation at the micro-level and these are being implemented in partnership with a host of governmental and non-governmental departments and agencies, corporate and media. Targeted interventions have been taken up to meet shortfall in turnout among various segments of population at polling station levels. Commission looks forward to continued support of all partner agencies and departments for enhanced turnout in the Lok Sabha polls. All arrangements and facilities will be in place to make voting a smooth and friendly experience. Voter-helplines, Voters’ Facilitation Centres, web and SMS based search facilities are active for assistance of voters. There are special facilities in place for women, for the aged, for the physically challenged or for those with special needs.
Commission has always found media as an important ally in election management. Hence, in conduct of Lok Sabha election, an efficient structure for information dissemination to media has been created at the Commission, State and District levels. Commission will ensure timely and due access to election related data and information by media. Authority Letters will be issued to all accredited Media for the polling day and the day of counting. Commission expects the media to play a positive and pro-active role in supplementing election management in delivery of a free, fair, transparent, peaceful and participative election.
At the same time, Commission has created District and State level Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMCs) to deal with the problem of Paid News and other media related violations, besides carrying out the existing provisions of pre-certification of political advertisements. Such mechanism will be at work for the first time in a Lok Sabha General election. Again, for the first time, the use of social media for election campaigning has been subjected to similar conditions, as that applies to use of other electronic media.