As Kerala goes to polls on Tuesday, there are a few things you have to keep in mind. If you are preparing for your maiden vote, read on. Even if you have voted before, things are a bit different this time due to the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
A record 40,771 polling booths have been set up to comply with the pandemic-related norms, compared to 21,498 in 2016.
Ensure your name is on the electoral list
You can vote only if your name is recorded on the electoral list. Only because you have voted in an earlier election, you can’t expect to be eligible to vote this time. Make sure your name is featured on the official list. You can search with your voter’s identification number on www.voterportal.eci.gov.in and www.ceo.kerala.gov.in. You can also check on the Voter Helpline app (download the app here) You can call up the district collectorate on 1950 to clear further doubts during office hours. You cannot carry mobile phones or any other electronic devices inside the polling booths.
Where to vote
You can also locate your polling station through your mobile device. You can use www.voterportal.eci.gov.in or the Voter Helpline app. You can text ECIPS<Space>ID card number to the number 1950 (format example ECIPS MST178XXX6). You can also find details about the polling station on the voter’s slips distributed by the block-level officers at your house. The slips also have details about the polling date and time. The slip, however, will not carry the voter’s photo. If you missed the slip distribution, you can get it on the Voter Helpline app or through the booths set up by political parties in the vicinity of the polling station. You must carry the slip when you go to the polling station.
For the differently-abled
Visually challenged voters will be given the voter’s slips inscribed with the Braille system. All polling stations would have kept a dummy ballot paper in Braille script. Voters can locate their preferred candidate’s position on this dummy ballot before pressing the button on the actual machine.
Chief election officer Teeka Ram Meena said that differently-abled electors will be provided with special transport facilities if the KSRTC does not provide them with free passes. They can also expect help from the special volunteers deputed in every polling station.
When to vote
The voting period is between 7 am and 7 pm. The last hour is meant exclusively for COVID-19 patients. The polling will wind up an hour early in 298 booths in Nilambur, Mananthavady, Sulthan Bathery, Kalpetta, Eranad, Vandoor, Kongad, Mannarkad and Malampuzha assembly constituencies which face threat from Left-wing extremists.
Before entering the polling station
All voters will be checked for signs of fever using a thermal scanner. If the temperature is seen as higher than the prescribed limit, they will have to wait for a couple of additional scans to confirm. If the temperature is recorded as high in all three tests, the voter will be sent back with a token. They can come back in the final hour and cast their votes after showing the token issued earlier in the day. If you have availed of the postal ballot facility, you cannot vote in the polling booth.
COVID-19-positive patients and those on their contact list can go to the polling booth to vote between 6 pm and 7 pm, provided they have not applied for postal ballot. In case there are still voters who are not COVID-19 positive waiting at that time to vote, the patients and those on the contact list will have to wait. COVID-19 patients must wear PPE kits, gloves and N95 masks. Polling officers will also wear PPE kits at that time.
Inside the polling station
Polling stations will have three lines this time. Senior citizens and differently-abled persons can find a separate line for them, along with two other lines for men and women. Everyone must maintain a 2-metre distance from each other. You have to keep a distance from everyone on all occasions. Avoid contact completely. Even if you have been vaccinated, you have to wear a mask.
You have to rub your hands with a hand sanitiser before and after casting your vote. All polling stations have stocked up on sanitisers. All voters will be provided with a pair of gloves at the polling station. Rub your hands with sanitiser before putting on the gloves. After you have cast your vote, discard the gloves in the bins set up for the purpose. Only one person will be allowed inside the booth at a time.
Hand over the voter’s slip to the first polling officer, who will check the electoral list to find your name on it. Give them your voter’s identity card too. Lower the mask for them to verify your identity.
The second polling officer will smear the ink on your finger and give you a slip. Sign on the register and move towards the third polling officer, who will receive the slip and check the ink smear on your finger.
Now is the time to vote. Find the name and photo of your preferred candidate and their election symbol on the machine. Press the button against the candidate’s name and wait for the beep. Your vote is recorded.
You can check if your vote has been recorded in the name of your preferred candidate. The serial number, name and symbol of the candidate will be exhibited on the VVPAT machine for a few seconds. That will be printed and stored in a machine for later scrutiny in case of disputes.
Outside, discard your gloves in the waste bin and rub your hands with sanitiser. Do not use a pen or any other tool to press the electronic voting machine’s button. Use your finger.
Central security forces have been deployed to guard Maoist-threatened polling booths and sensitive booths. Kerala has 433 sensitive booths and 549 critical booths this time. Half of the 40,771 polling booths have set up webcasting facilities.
As many as 2,02,402 polling officers have been deputed to conduct the proceedings. Almost 97 per cent of them have been vaccinated against COVID-19.