The Election Commission (EC) on Friday issued fresh guidelines for the conduct of the general election and bye-election during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The commission announced the guidelines after taking views and suggestions of various political parties, chief electoral officers of states and UTs on the election campaign and public meetings.

The poll watchdog has revised the norms of the number of persons accompanying the candidate and the number of vehicles at the time of nomination. It has also created an optional facility to fill the nomination form and the affidavit online and submission of the same, after taking the print, before the  RO concerned.

For the first time, the candidates will have the option to deposit security amount for contesting the elections online, announced the EC. Keeping the containment guidelines in view, the commission has limited the number of persons including the candidate for the door to door campaign to five.

Public meeting and roadshows will be permissible with suitable instructions subject to containment instructions issued by the MHA and the states. Face mask, sanitizer, thermal scanners, gloves, face shield and PPE kits will be used during the electoral process ensuring social distancing norms, added the EC. Hand gloves will be provided to all the electors for signing on the voter register and pressing the button of EVM for voting, it added.

The Chief Electoral Officers of concerned states and UTs will make comprehensive election plans regarding the arrangement and preventive measures following these guidelines taking local conditions into account. These plans will be prepared in consultation with the Nodal Officer for COVID-19in their respective States/UTs.

A) General guidelines for all:

1) Every person shall wear a face mask during every election-related activity.
2) At the entry of hall/ room/ premises used for election purposes: (a) Thermal Scanning of all persons shall be carried out; (b) Sanitizer, soap and water shall be made available.
3) Social distancing shall be maintained as per the extant COVID-19 guidelines of the State Govt. and Ministry of Home Affairs.
4) As far as practicable, large halls should be identified and utilized to ensure social distancing norms.
5) An adequate number of vehicles shall be mobilized for movement of polling personnel, security personnel to ensure compliance of COVID-19 guidelines.

B) NODAL HEALTH OFFICER:

Nodal Health Officer shall be designated for the State, the District and the Assembly Constituency to oversee COVID-19 related arrangements and, preventive measures during the entire electoral process.

C) EVMs/VVPATs:
1) First & Second randomization and preparation of EVMs/VVPATs shall be done in large halls.
2) Sanitizers shall be provided in sufficient quantity for use during the process.
3) Gloves shall be made available to each official handling EVM/VVPAT.

D) TRAINING AND CAPACITY BUILDING:
1) As far as practicable, training of election officials will be organized in a decentralized manner at large halls.
2) Training for election officials may be organized through online mode.
3) All PPTs, training materials, relevant documents, topic wise video clips, question papers for self-assessment may be uploaded in app/ portal so that any election official can access it as per requirement.
4) A sufficient number of Polling/Counting/Poll related staffs shall also be kept in reserve by DEO/RO, to replace in case any polling personnel displays COVlD-l9 symptoms.

E) NOMINATION PROCESS:

* Following additional options to facilitate online mode are hereby provided:
1) Nomination form will also be available online on the website of CEO/ DEO. An intending candidate may fill in it online and its print may be taken for submitting before the Returning Officer as specified in Form-1 (Rule-3 of Conduct of Election Rules 1961).
2) Affidavit may also be filled in online on the website of CEO/DEO and its print can be taken and after notarization it may be submitted along with the nomination form before the Returning Officer.
3) Candidate may deposit security money through online mode at the designated platform. However, a candidate will continue to have the option of deposit in cash in the treasury

4) Candidate may have the option to seek his/her elector certification for the purpose of nomination online .

* Further, Commission has directed:

1) Number of persons to accompany candidate for submission of Nomination is restricted to two (2). 
2) Number of vehicles for the purposes of nomination is restricted to two (2).
3) Returning Officer’s chamber should have sufficient space to perform the functions of nomination, scrutiny and symbol allocation following social distancing norms.
4) Returning Officer should allot staggered time in advance to prospective candidates.
5) Large space for waiting for candidate(s) should be arranged.
6) All steps required to be taken for the submission of nomination form and affidavit shall continue to operate as per the provisions contained in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

F) ELECTION MATERIAL: Election Material Kit will be prepared in a spacious and sufficiently large hall following all safety, sanitation and social distancing measures.

G) DISTRIBUTION AND COLLECTION OF ELECTION MATERIAL:
1) Large halls/spaces should be identified for distribution/collection of election material.
2) As far as practicable, it should be organized in decentralized manner.
3) Prior staggered time should be allocated to the polling teams for distribution/ collection of election material.

H) TIMING OF 3rd RANDOMIZATION: Timing for 3rd randomization of polling staff be increased from 24 hrs to 72 hrs in order to avoid large gathering of polling staff at dispatch centres.





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