Amid Covid, Hyderabad civic body election via ballot papers

Election Commission of India. (Facebook/@ECI)

Hyderabad, (Asian independent) The Telangana State Election Commission (SEC) will conduct the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections through paper ballots, as a majority of political parties sought this option amid the Covid pandemic.

“Telangana SEC has decided to conduct the ensuing GHMC elections and other left-over ULBs (urban local body) polls with ballot boxes and ballot paper based on detailed deliberations, available time and also opinions expressed by the political parties,” an official said.

The SEC had held talks with GHMC Commissioner D.S. Lokesh Kumar whether to hold the elections through EVMs or through paper ballots, and it was decided to obtain opinion of political parties.

Of the 50 parties surveyed, 26 replied, out of which three favoured EVMs, 16 ballot boxes while seven did not voice a definite opinion.

Thus, a majority of the parties conveyed their opinion to conduct the GHMC elections with ballot boxes, the official said.

The SEC also highlighted that multiple steps and protocols had to be followed if EVMs and voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs) machines were deployed in the polling, with this including first and second level checking, randomisation and commissioning, which entails involvement of numerous people.

Engineers, manufacturers, party representatives, election staff and others have to be deputed, while a huge number of unskilled labourers have to be deployed for cleaning, unpacking and packing EVMs and VVPATs in a closed environment.

“During the Covid pandemic situation, it is felt that the conduct of the above activities involve high risk of community spread of coronavirus, when compared to use of ballot boxes,” the official said.