New Delhi: For the first time, the Election Commission has given nod to arrange postal ballot facility for voters above 80 years of age and Persons with Disability (PwD) categories in the upcoming Bihar elections.
The poll panel's announcement came ahead of the nomination process for the first phase of elections in 71 constituencies, spread over 16 districts, ending on Monday.
The EC also announced that the "exercise will continue in subsequent two phases of elections in Bihar and in by-elections in all other states so that electoral process becomes more accessible, inclusive and safe for these categories during the period of Covid-19".
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The three-phase Bihar polls will be held on October 28 (71 seats), November 3 (94) and November 7 (78) in what will be the first large-scale elections in the country since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
The poll results will be declared on November 10.
The EC further said in a statement on Monday that Booth Level Officers (BLOs) will visit approximately 12 lakh such electors' homes in Bihar in the next two phases for this purpose.
It said that over 52,000 senior citizens and PwD electors have exercised their option to vote through postal ballots in the first phase of Bihar polls in the 71 constituencies.
The ECI shared the input after BLOs in 71 constituencies reached out to more than four lakh electors belonging to senior citizen (above 80 years of age) and PwD categories.
"More than 52,000 such electors have exercised their option to vote through postal ballots. These electors will be provided postal ballots on pre-informed date(s) by the Returning Officers (ROs) with proper security and videography arrangements to ensure secrecy, safety, and transparency in the process," the Commission said.
Remaining electors intend to visit the booth on the poll day for franchise, said the Commission.
Earlier, during the Election Commissioners' visit to Bihar from September 29 to October 1 this year, attention was drawn to certain concerns regarding the implementation of this provision for the above categories of voters.
To comprehensively address these concerns, the EC on October 3 had directed that "BLO will visit the houses of the concerned electors, as provided by the RO, in the polling station area and deliver Form 12-D to the concerned electors. If an elector is not available, he or she will share his or her contact details and revisit to collect it within five days of the notification".
In another instruction, the Commission said that the elector may or may not opt for postal ballot in the acknowledgement attached with the Form 12-D.
"If he or she opts for postal ballot, then the BLO will collect the filled-in Form 12-D from the house of the elector within five days of the notification and deposit it with the RO forthwith. The BLO shall deposit all the acknowledgement forms with the RO along with all Form 12-D. Sector Officer shall supervise it under the overall supervision of RO," it said.