Electoral Reforms In India

Who exactly counts your Vote after polling?


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:
  1. To designate the counting centres and get them approved by the Commission well in advance;
  2. To send notice to the candidates about the place, date and time of counting of votes;
  3. To appoint and train counting staff;
  4. 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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