How to hold elections if Covid-19 persists? EC takes note of South Korea’s elections

PTI New Delhi | Updated on April 23, 2020 Published on April 23, 2020

File photo of Indelible ink is applied on a voter's finger at a polling booth in Chennai   -  The Hindu

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said that the Commission will take necessary measures in consultation with the health authorities

The Election Commission has taken note of changes made by South Korea in procedures while holding its parliamentary polls amid the coronavirus outbreak, and said it will consider modifications as required and suited to the Indian context wherever elections need to be held in this kind of pandemic environment.

“Our people are studying the modifications made by South Korea in procedures while holding elections,” Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa told PTI. The Election Commission, Lavasa pointed out, will take into consideration the modifications that have been necessitated where polls have taken place, or might have to be conducted “in this kind of pandemic environment”.

‘Too early’

Responding to a question on how the poll campaign and conduct of elections will be affected if the coronavirus pandemic refuses to die down soon, the Election Commissioner said whatever measures are to be taken will be taken in consultation with the health authorities of the country and the stakeholders.

He, however, added that much will depend on how long the present situation continues. “If this persists, some modifications of the existing procedures might be required,” he said.

However, he added that it was “too early” to say whether Covid-19 would have a bearing on future Indian elections. “The Bihar Assembly polls are still some months away,” an EC functionary pointed out. The term of the present Bihar Assembly ends in November.

In March, the poll panel had deferred Rajya Sabha elections to 18 seats due to the coronavirus outbreak. No fresh dates have been announced yet.

Precautions needed

Former chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat was of the view that the virus would not have a bearing on future elections. He said in the past too, there had been outbreaks of virus, but elections were held without making changes in the system.

Nasim Zaidi, another former chief election commissioner, suggested that the poll panel should set up a task force to “review” standard operating procedures for holding elections.

“In the light of the disease and depending on how things unfold, stakeholders, including political parties, the EC and health officials will have to apply their mind on SOPs relating to precautions to be taken in each step of holding elections right from filing nominations to actual voting,” he said.

The use of indelible ink by a single brush also needs to be considered during such virus outbreaks, he pointed out.

According to media reports, voters in South Korea wore masks and disposable gloves and followed social distancing norms. After their temperature was taken, they were allowed to cast their ballot.

“This can be done here too, if the need arises. A pencil-like object can be given a press button on the EVM to avoid direct contact. The object can then be disposed of,” Zaidi suggested.

Those in self-quarantine were allowed to cast votes at polling stations after polling hours, another report had said.

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Published on April 23, 2020
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