From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Vote counts
Mains level : Not Much
For a country like India where each individual constituency can have lakhs of voters, counting votes is a complex process that requires both pace and precision.
Where are the Votes counted?
- Ideally, all votes should be counted in one location in the constituency.
- However, during General Elections, when seats are larger with multiple Assembly constituencies, many counting centres can be appointed, depending on the number of votes that need to be counted.
- The location(s) for counting votes is decided by the Returning Officer (RO), with multiple centres in assembly segments being under the supervision of the Assistant Returning Officers (ARO).
- In counting centres, ideally all votes are counted in one big hall having multiple tables.
- However, if the RO feels there is a risk of overcrowding, more rooms may be opened up after permission from the Election Commission (EC).
Role of Returning Officer
- The RO is appointed for each constituency by the Election Commission.
- During the duration of the election, the RO is the highest authority in the constituency having a wide range of powers in order to peacefully and impartially conduct elections.
- With respect to counting of votes, the RO has the following duties:
- To designate the counting centres and get them approved by the Commission well in advance;
- To send notice to the candidates about the place, date and time of counting of votes;
- To appoint and train counting staff;
- To count the votes and declare the result.
- ROs themselves do not count all votes but verify the counting at multiple stages and announce the results.
- They are the final authority in the matter of vote counting in an election.
Supervision of the process
- A counting room will have multiple counting tables with each counting a set number of postal ballots/EVMs on a round-to-round basis.
- On each table, there is a counting supervisor and up to two assistants who do the actual counting.
- They should be gazetted officers and are appointed by the RO.
- They receive specific training pertaining to the tasks they are expected to undertake.
- For instance, for those counting postal ballots, the training is different from that received for counting EVM votes.
Observers in the counting process
- The EC appoints observers at each counting room, who are supposed to record the proceedings and file a report.
- They are generally employees of the GoI, and are tasked with the duty to oversee overall functioning of the election apparatus.
- Candidates who were on the ballot are also allowed in the counting room along with their representatives.
- All parties and candidates send counting agents in order to ensure that votes are counted fairly and according to procedure, and lodge complaints, if any.
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