Thiruvanathapuram: As a probe is on to ascertain how polling personnel deployed for the just-concluded Kerala Legislative Assembly election received postal ballot papers twice, many wonder whether this happened due to a mix-up or intentional act by vested interests.
A clarity on the issue is expected once the tallying of application for postal ballots and their actual is over.
In the state polls for which voting was held on April 6 each of the 140 constituencies had about 2,000 to 3,000 postal ballots. That many votes could prove decisive in an electoral contest when the victory margin is narrow.
Two days ago, Manorama had reported that the officials who had cast postal ballots in special centres had received ballots again by post.
Double vote: information-gathering over
The Election Commission's process of examining the suspected double votes among the 3.5 lakh postal ballots meant for polling officials in the state has been completed. The details are likely to be made public in two days.
The Commission had directed the district collectors and returning officers to collect the details of postal ballots on Friday night.
The following points could clear several doubts and clarifications regarding postal ballots.
Who all are entitled to have postal ballots?
In the latest state polls time there were four categories of postal ballots. The first category was of absentee voters - those above 80 years of age, differently-abled, Covid-positive patients and those under quarantine.
The second category comprised voters deployed for essential services like police, fire force personnel, home guard and health officials.
The third category was of staff of government departments and semi-government departments who were assigned poll duty.
The fourth category was service votes: defence personnel, those in foreign services and those working in other states.
How did they vote?
The officials went to the homes of absentee voters to facilitate their voting. The employees of essential services were allowed to vote from March 28 to 30 in special centres set up on the basis of assembly constituencies. Those who were assigned poll duty cast their vote from April 1 to 3 in facilitation centres set up in assembly constituencies.
Those who could not vote on the specific days were sent postal ballots on their respective addresses. The last date for applying for postal ballots was April 4.
A special system was put in place for the service votes. For this category, the postal ballots were sent online, which were to be downloaded. After casting their votes, they have to return the same by post.
How are postal ballots prepared? What is the colour?
The returning officers place orders for the printing of postal ballots in government presses and they directly receive the ballots. Each postal ballot will have a special number - mostly a four-digit number. The same number will be in the counterfoil.
The colour of postal ballots this time was red!
How are postal ballots sent?
The postal ballots are sent after considering the applications given by officials on poll duty on Form 12, their names on the voter's list and with an attestation of a gazetted officer. The voter's ID card of the official and polling duty certificate are also examined. Once the postal ballots are sent, PB (postal ballot) is written against their names in the list. The details of the serial number and the booth on which the postal ballot has to be sent will be mentioned in the counterfoil.
Who received the second postal ballot?
Those polling officials who voted in facilitation centres received the second postal ballot. The ballots were to be sent to those personnel who could not vote at these centres and had applied in time.
Was it not marked on the voters list?
When polling officials voted at the facilitation centres set up in the respective assembly constituencies they had submitted the applications there and the gazetted officer present there had attested their applications. Subsequently, the voter's ID card and duty certificates were examined and they were allowed to vote. Indelible ink was applied on their index finger. PB was marked in the voters' list. This list was handed over to the returning officer.
Did the Election Commission release the details of postal votes?
The Election Commission has informed that 3,53,000 persons had cast their postal ballots at home. The total number of service voters was 57,160.
The Commission has not yet given details of the total voters in the essential services departments and polling officials who had cast their postal ballots.
Until when can the postal ballots be accepted?
The postal ballots sent through post or can be returned to the returning officer till 8 am on the counting day - May 2.
How are postal ballots counted?
Usually, the postal ballots are counted first. The total number and the attested documents will be on the cover of each vote which will be examined. However, it is not examined whether a person had voted twice.
How is a double vote found out?
This could be ascertained only after examining the serial number on the voters' list. From the list, it can be found out one received two postal ballots and whether one cast votes with both the postal ballots received.
Isn't a double vote a bogus one?
Yes. If a person casts a double vote then it is a bogus vote. Under the Representation of Peoples Act, a person who casts bogus votes is liable to imprisonment and fine or both.
In the case of government /semi-government officials, the offence becomes more serious.