The Election Commission (EC) on Thursday put a hold on its earlier announcement announced that it will not extend the facility of postal ballot to electors above 65 years of age in upcoming Bihar assembly elections on the grounds of “constraints of logistics, manpower and safety protocols of covid-19". The provision will however continue for electors over 80 years of age, PwD (persons with disability), those engaged in essential services and those who are covid-19 positive/suspect in either home or institutional quarantine.
“Considering all these issues, challenges and constraints and in view of the decision to limit the number of electors at each polling station to 1000, Commission has decided not to issue the notification to extend the facility of postal ballot to the electors above 65 years of age in the coming General Elections in Bihar and by- elections due in the near future," EC said in an press note released on Thursday evening.
While detailing upon possible challenges which EC could face, the press note said that to ensure safety precautions in the backdrop of covid-19, approximately 45% more polling booth which is approximately 34,000 in numbers is being arranged for which will take the total number of polling stations to around 1,06,000. “This would entail formidable logistical challenges of mobilizing 1.8 lakh more polling personnel and other additional resources including requirement of much larger number of vehicles in the state of Bihar," the note added saying that similar scaling up challenges would be faced in bypolls as well.
The development is significant because it comes in the backdrop of several opposition parties including Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Left Parties, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) among others sending representations to the EC for withdrawing the move on the grounds that it infringes upon democratic principles and violates Right to Secrecy in voting processes. The EC in its press note on Thursday however did not make any mention of demands by political parties.
Upon the proposal of EC, a notification by the ministry of law and justice was issued a fortnight ago that allowed those above 65 years of age or those affected by or suspected to have covid-19 to use the postal ballot facility to cast their votes. The provision for electors over the age of 80 among others was already available.