GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
Direction: The article covers the process and apparatus involved during the counting of votes once polling is over.
Context: As Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh wait for the results of their Assembly elections, we will try to understand the process of counting votes.
Background: 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.
Process of counting of votes:
- Ideally, all votes should be counted in one location in the constituency. But during General Elections, many counting centres can be appointed.
- The location(s) for counting votes is decided by the Returning Officer (RO), with multiple centres being under the supervision of the Assistant Returning Officers (each centre under one ARO).
Role played by the Returning Officer (RO):
- The RO is appointed for each constituency by the Election Commission and is the highest authority (during the course of the election) in the constituency to peacefully and impartially conduct elections.
- Generally, the District Magistrate is the ex-officio RO in Lok Sabha elections while the Sub-Divisional Magistrate is the RO in state assembly elections.
- With respect to the 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. However, ROs themselves do not count all votes but verify the counting at multiple stages.
- They are the final authority in the matter of vote counting in an election. The EC also appoints AROs to assist the RO in carrying out all the duties.
Other participants in the counting apparatus:
- Counting Supervisors and Assistants: They should be gazetted officers and are appointed by the RO.
- The EC appoints observers (generally employees of the Govt of India) at each counting room, who are supposed to record the proceedings and file a report.
- They are the eyes and ears of the EC on the ground, who ensure that all procedures are being followed and are also supposed to randomly verify votes counted for some EVMs in each round of counting.
- Candidates and Counting Agents: Candidates who were on the ballot are also allowed in the counting room along with their representatives.
- While armed forces are typically not supposed to enter counting rooms, they are in charge of maintaining multiple layers of security, both at the
- Counting room
- Path through which EVMs are brought to the counting rooms from their strong rooms (where they are stored after polling).
- The security forces, including CRPF and local police, are under the authority of the RO of the constituency.
Q. In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (2018)