New Delhi: Around 66% voter turnout was reported in the first phase of the simultaneous polls in Odisha on Thursday, state election office said.

In 2014, these seats had reported a voter turnout of 74%.

Voting for four Lok Sabha seats and 28 assembly seats started at 7 am in southern Odisha though electronic voting machines malfunction in over three dozen pooling booths delaying the voting process to some extent.

Surendra Kumar, chief electoral officer of the state said while some booths started voting between 30 to 40 minutes late due to EVM problems, the first phase of election went off peacefully in the state. Kumar said a total of 296 voting machines reported glitches which he claimed is a failure rate of less than 1% of the total machines deployed for the first phase of votes.

“Approximately 66% voter turnout was reported," Kumar said adding that it may change slightly once all data reaches it from field offices.

He said as 20 of the 28 assembly segments in this phase of voting are affected by left wing extremism, polling will take place only till 4 p.m. there, and in rest eight assembly segments, it will continue till 6 p.m.

He however, said all those voters waiting outside the polling booths at 4 p.m. or 6.p.m. will be allowed to vote. He declined to extend the voting time in booths where polling was affected due to machine glitch in the morning.

Over 6 million voters will exercise their franchise to elect their leaders. Odisha is voting in four phases beginning today. The first phase will decide the electoral fate of 217 candidates of which 26 are competing from four Lok Sabha seats of Kalahandi, Nabrangpur, Berhampur and Koraput. In 2014 elections, all the above Lok Sabha seats were won by ruling Biju Janata Dal. Odisha has 21 Lok Sabha seats.

In the 28 Assembly seats, 191 candidates are in fray including 16 women candidates. In all these constituencies voting today, women voters constitute more than 50% of the total 6 million voters. At least 560 voters are from the third gender for the first of the election in the state, as per official data.

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Odisha elections this time is observing a triangular contest – while ruling BJD is still seen as the most popular party, BJP is witnessing steady growth in its popularity over the past one month. Congress too is regrouping in western and southern Odisha. In 2014 elections, BJD had won 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and BJP won 1. In the Assembly, BJD had won 117 seats in 2014.

Odisha Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, and BJP leader and union minister Dharmendra Prdahan urged voters especially the young voters to go out in large numbers to caste their votes.

“As voting Round 1 begins for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 and Odisha Elections, appeal all voters of Berhampur, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur & Koraput, especially first time voters to come out in large numbers to cast their votes to build glorious future for Odisha and the country," chief minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik tweeted.