Early, on schedule or simultaneous polls, EC prepares for 2019 in advance

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The Election Commission (EC) has started the preparations to conduct the General Election in April or May 2019, a few months in advance of its usual schedule, according to reports.

The EC is considering all possible scenarios for 2019 Lok Sabha election, besides weather conditions, the Economic Times report said.

The Election Commission has started its 2019 election planning over 395 days in advance instead of the usual 365 and has also added additional steps to the elaborate drill to ensure the electoral process and the machines, EVM and VVPAT, work to perfection, the news report said.

EC sources as quoted by the Economic Times claimed that the early start was made for all poll scenarios and it was not based on any governmental input. 

To avoid embarrassing situations like those in Gondiya and Kairana bypolls, where many VVPATs faced glitches due to overexposure to heat and light, the EC will be taking precautions with the machines and other components.

Likewise, to ensure uninterrupted voting in high-humidity polling stations, the EC has procured special anti-humidity thermal paper rolls for the smooth functioning of the VVPAT system.

The heat and light problems will be addressed by way of special hoods that the new VVPATs will come with.

A consolidated 11.6% VVPAT replacement was reported in the bypolls held in May with worrying figures seen at Kairana in Uttar Pradesh and Gondiya in Maharashtra at 20.8% and 19.22%, respectively. Both had to go to re-polls later.

The EC will have all the requisite EVMs by September 2018, while VVPATs with hoods and new paper will come in between October and November 2018, the report said.

Besides improved machines, there will be 450 master trainers to guide the polling staff on handling the new M3 EVM and the VVPAT correctly and as per protocol so that malfunctions due to human error are kept to a minimum.

The EC goes by an elaborate 365-day and highly detailed ‘election planner’ as it moves into a Lok Sabha cycle. 

EC chose to keep the planning duration to over 395 days this time to ensure that it is well equipped to handle the election process just in case early polls take place, the report said.

For this, the EC chose to start preparations from January-February, instead of May 2018 as per the schedule.

The rulebook says the EC cannot notify a general election six months before the Lok Sabha tenure ends. 

The current Lok Sabha’s tenure ends on June 3 and hence the EC cannot notify the next election before December 3, 2018 unless there are emergency situation that may warrant early dissolution of the House.

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