Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections 2017 will be held on November 9 and votes will be counted on December 18. According to the Election Commission, which announced the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections schedule on October 12, the poll process will start with the issue of the gazette notification on October 23 after which candidates can file their nominations. The last date for filing of nominations for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly is October 23, said Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti. The scrutiny of nomination papers will be on October 24 while he the last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 26, Joti said. With the announcement of Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, the model code of conduct too has come into effect in the state.
Out of the 68 constituencies in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and three for Scheduled Tribes. The constituencies and seats reserved have been determined by the Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Order, 2008. The total number of voters in Himachal Pradesh as per the final roll on September 15, 2017 is 49,05,677. Himachal Pradesh has 100% Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) coverage.
When voting takes place on November 9 in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, the state will achieve the distinction of being only the second state after Goa with 100 percent VVPAT (Voter-verified paper audit trail) coverage. The VVPAT machines will be used in all the 7,521 polling stations and the size of screens will be increased to 10 cm.
VVPAT or Verifiable Paper Record (VPR) is a verification system for the voters which will tell if his vote has been cast correctly. After a person casts the vote, the VVPAT shows the person and party he/she has voted for. But the VVPAT used for Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections 2017 will not give the voter a slip, which will actually go in a sealed box and then cross-checked with the figures of EVMs when the counting takes place.
In order to ensure that no voter is deprived of his/her franchise, if his/her name figures in the electoral rolls, additional documents for identification of voters, if needed, will be allowed. Aadhaar Card has also been included as an additional document for establishing the identity of voters at polling stations.
For the first time ever, Himachal Pradesh will also have 136 all-woman managed polling booths, with each constituency having two women. The Election Commission has also increased the height of voting compartments to 30 inches to ensure secrecy. The voting compartment should be placed on a table whose height shall be 30 inches and only corrugated plastic sheet (flex-board) of steel-grey colour, which is completely opaque and reusable, shall be used for making the voting compartments. Voting will take place at 7,479 polling station.
The Election Commission also issued instructions to ensure that as far as practicable, all polling stations are located at ground floor and sturdy ramps are provided for the convenience of differently-abled electors with wheel-chairs. Further, in order to provide targeted and need- based facilitation to differently-abled voters, the Commission has directed that all Persons With Disabilities (PwDs) in an Assembly Constituency are identified and tagged to their respective Polling Stations and necessary disability-specific arrangements made for their smooth and convenient voting experience on the poll day. Identified PWDs will be assisted by volunteers appointed by RO/DEO.
In its judgment dated 27th September, 2013 in Writ Petition (C) No. 161 of 2004 (People’s Union for Civil Liberties Vs Union of India and another), the Supreme Court has directed that there should be a “None of the Above” (NOTA) option on the ballot papers and EVMs and VVPATs.
On the Balloting Unit, below the name of the last candidate, there will now be a button for NOTA option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option by pressing the button against NOTA. The Commission has provided a new symbol for the NOTA option, which was designed by National Institute of Design (NID). This new symbol will facilitate the voters in casting of their votes.
In order to facilitate electors in identifying the candidates for Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, the Election Commission has prescribed an additional measure by way of adding provision for printing the photograph of candidate also on the ballot to be displayed on the EVM (Ballot Unit) and on Postal Ballot Papers. This will also take care to avoid likely confusion when candidates with same or similar names contest from the same constituency. For this purpose, the candidates are required to submit to the Returning Officer, their recent Stamp Size photograph as per the specifications laid down by the Commission. Many of the poll-bound states will be using the photograph of the candidates on the ballot papers for the first time. Instructions have also been issued to ensure necessary publicity of this instruction.