Poll panel extends voting timings by one hour

Poll panel extends voting timings by one hour

Single-window facility for granting permission to political rallies

The Election Commission of India on Tuesday extended the poll timings by an hour for the Assembly elections in Karnataka.

Accordingly, the voting will be held between 7 am and 5 pm.

Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath announced the revised timings after a series of meetings with various political parties, bureaucrats and police officials from different parts of the State.

“With the extended poll timings, more voters can visit booths to exercise their franchise,” he said.

Leaders of all major political parties had urged the Election Commission to commence polling at 7 am instead of 8 am as announced earlier.

Voter ID slips

Sampath said the Commission will distribute voter identity slips containing the photograph of the voter on the eve of the polling day.

A block level official from the Commission would be sitting near the booth to distribute the ID slips.

“We don’t want to stop the age-old practice of political parties distributing voter ID slips. Parties will be allowed to have their stalls 200 metres away from the booth.

Because this is summer, a shamiana or some such facility can be installed to take shelter from the scorching sun,” he said.

Parties can serve water to voters who come to booths but no food or other incentives are allowed, he added.

Elections officials said they have received complaints about distribution of gifts, liquor and money to voters even before filing of nominations. Sampath said such materials will be seized and stringent action will be initiated against persons involved in such activities.

Officials said 30 more lines have been added to their toll free helpline 1950 to strengthen the complaint receiving mechanism. Candidates have been asked to open separate account for poll expenditure and commercial banks have been told to facilitate opening such accounts and issue cheque books immediately, said an official.

Following the complaints by political parties alleging bureaucratic hurdles for holding rallies, the Commission has decided to set up a single window agency for faster clearances. Political parties have to submit application with details of date, time and venue of the rally to be held and officials would be told to clear files within 24 hours.

Booths mapped

The Commission has also mapped polling booths and surrounding areas which are prone to problems during elections.

A detailed vulnerability mapping plan wherein extra security forces would be deployed is ready.

Replying to a question, Sampath said the Commission has not received any complaint so far alleging sale of tickets in Congress.

Poll officials said exit polls can be held only after 30 minutes after the polling hours. No opinion polls can be held during 48 hours before the polling day.

“However, open debates on political developments can’t be controlled.

“Such debates can’t be turned judgemental and committees of Election Commission at district level will have a close look at such shows,” said Sampath.

When his attention was drawn to the transfer of Bangalore City police commissioner, Jyothiprakash Mirji, Sampath said the transfer was no reflection on any individual. It was the decision of the Commission, he said.

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