Assembly polls 2021: How Covid-19 patients will vote

Assembly polls 2021: Guidelines in place for Covid-positive voters

Officials have said that the much appreciated Bihar model of elections during Covid-19 will be practiced

Credit: PTI File Photo

As the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced polling and counting dates for four states and one Union Territory — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry — campaigning has heated up as political parties have set out all guns blazing to emerge at the top.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus situation in the country is also volatile with the ebb and flow of daily cases.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the ECI had last year set some general guidelines for elections during the pandemic. Basic Covid-19 rules of social distancing, thermal scanning, sanitisation, use of masks among other things, have been highlighted by the ECI. The number of maximum electors per polling station has also been brought down to 1,000 from 1,500.

Arrangements for Covid-19 patients

Officials have said that the Bihar model would be followed in the upcoming assembly elections as the state's Health Department had won accolades for conducting elections to the 243-member assembly amid the coronavirus surge last year.

During the Bihar polls, lists of Covid-19 positive electors were provided beforehand to polling officials and special training was imparted to handle them.

A senior officer in West Bengal said that they would stick to the protocol followed in Bihar. Suspected Covid-19 patients will be allowed to cast their votes only after others finish exercising their franchise, he said.

The body temperature of a voter would be checked for a second time if the person is found to have a temperature beyond the permissible limit of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Read: BJP writes to ECI, accuses TMC ministers of violating model code of conduct

"If the person's body temperature is found high for the second time too, the voter will be asked to come back to cast vote in the final hour of the day (5 pm-6 pm)," he added.

There are also talks in other states about considering an extension of voting hours for Covid-19 patients under the supervision of health authorities.

Other than that, electors who are Covid-19 positive/suspect and are in quarantine, home or institutional, will be given the option of postal ballot. This facility has also been extended to voters marked as Persons with Disabilities, voters above the age of 80, and those employed in notified essential services. The postal ballot facility enables a limited number of voters to exercise their franchise remotely with the use of a ballot paper and send it to the concerned election officer before the counting of votes.

Originally, this service is restricted to service voters — people serving in the armed forces and police personnel serving at the border and remote areas of the country as well as those working under the Government of India in missions abroad — and their spouses. It is generally also extended to overseas voters but won't be extended to them during the upcoming elections. "Due to protocols associated with Covid-19, the problem further gets compounded," the ECI had said to the Law Ministry in a letter.

(With inputs from PTI)