New Delhi: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday issued detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) for the conduct of general and bye-elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic and announced online nominations for candidates. The commission has limited door-to-door campaigns up to five people only. Also Read - Upendra Kushwaha's RLSP to Contest Bihar Assembly Elections 2020 With BSP and JPS
Apart from that, basic health protocols like wearing of face masks and social distancing will also be followed during the elections. Moreover, COVID-19 patients who are in quarantine will also be allowed to vote at the last hour of the polling day. Also Read - Bihar Elections 2020: Three-Phase Polling From October 28; Counting of Votes on November 10
“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,” the Election Commission noted, adding that “training for election officials may be organised through online mode”. Also Read - Country's First Regional Voters' Awareness Centre to Come up in Jaipur: EC
Here are the guidelines:
1. Face masks compulsory for every person during any election-related activity. Gloves shall be made available to each official handling EVM/VVPAT.
2. Standard safety measures like thermal screening, sanitizer or soap and water for hand wash, and wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) kits shall be made available at the entry of election hall/room/premises throughout the process.
3. Use of large halls as far as possible and social distancing to be maintained at all costs.
4. The option of postal ballot facility has been extended to the electors who are marked as ‘persons with disabilities’, people above the Fage of 80 years, people employed in notified essential services and who are COVID-19 positive/possibly infected.
5. Nomination forms to be made available online on the election commission’s website. Candidates can print the form and affidavit, deposit the security money through online mode and submit the form to a Returning Officer after notarisation.
6. Adequate vehicles to be provided for movement of polling personnel and security personnel for the conduct of elections.
7. Door-to-door campaigns permitted as per COVID-19 restrictions with only 5 persons including the candidate and excluding security personnel, if any.
8. Convoy for roadshows should be broken after every five vehicles, as opposed to 10 and the interval between two sets should be half an hour, instead of 100 meters.
9. Nodal District Officer to be involved in the entire process to maintain COVID-19 safety guidelines.
10. The number of attendees at each campaign should not exceed the permitted limit for public gatherings by each State Disaster Management Authority.
The ECI guidelines come in view of several elections lining up at the end of the year. Notably, elections are due in Bihar in the months of October and November, while elections in Rajya Sabha are scheduled for September for the seat vacant after Amar Singh’s death.