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Working of Polling Booths in India

  • Context (IE): The Election Commission of India is set for the last phase of Lok Sabha polls, with 57 constituencies across 8 States/UTs scheduled for voting.

Establishing Polling Station

  • Section 25 of the RPA 1951, the District Election Officer (DEO) is responsible for setting up and publishing the list of polling stations within a district.
  • Guidelines:
    • Voters should not travel more than 2 km to cast their vote
    • Minimum area of 20 sq m for each polling station
    • A maximum of 1,500 electors per polling station
    • Villages with over 300 voters must have a polling station
  • However, these principles are flexible to accommodate various situations. E.g. Arunachal Pradesh’s Malogam polling station serves a single voter.
  • Critical polling stations identified by the ECI require heightened security measures due to their vulnerability, abnormal law and order situations, or unusual voter turnout rates.

Personnel and Restrictions inside Polling Stations

Allowed Inside Polling Stations Not Allowed Inside or within 100-meter radius
  • Registered electors, Polling officers
  • Candidates & polling agents (one of each candidate)
  • Authorised media personnel
  • Public servants on election duty
  • ECI-appointed observers, micro-observers
  • Videographers, photographers & webcasting staff for sensitive polling stations
  • A child in arms accompanying an elector
  • A person assisting a blind or infirm voter
  • Others admitted by the Presiding Officer for voter identification or assistance.
  • Unauthorised persons not mentioned in the “Allowed” list
  • Political propaganda materials
  • Cameras and mobile phones (except for authorised personnel)
  • Canvassing activities
  • Loudspeakers (beyond 200 meters from the polling station)
  • Any activities that may disrupt the polling process or violate the Model Code of Conduct.

Steps taken to address the challenges in Polling Stations

  • The ECI has taken steps to mitigate the impact of heatwaves on voters and polling staff through various arrangements such as shade structures, proper ventilation, cooling devices, etc.
  • The ECI’s Saksham App allows specially-abled voters to book wheelchairs, use pick-up and drop-off services, and receive assistance at the polling booth.

Staff Allocation and Last-Minute Preparations

  • Each polling booth, which caters up to 1,100 votes, is manned by 4 to 6 staff members (appointed just a day before polls), including Booth-Level Officers (BLO), who are appointed weeks in advance.
  • A polling station can contain multiple booths in the same building.

Role of BLOs

  • BLOs distribute voter slips and organise amenities for the polling team.
  • BLOs work with polling staff to relay hourly poll percentages to the DEO via the Polling Area Management System (PAMS), enabling voters to monitor queue status.

Polling Day Preparations and Mock Polls

  • On the day of polling, mock polls are held at 5 am to check whether the EVMs are functioning correctly. Normally, mock polling sees five votes polled for each candidate, the results of which are later checked.
  • Polling commences at 7 am and continues until 6 pm.
  • After the polls close, the EVMs are sealed and transported to designated counting centres.
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