Rashmi Ranjan

Seeking to maintain secrecy of voting, the Election Commission has directed the returning officer and assistant returning officers to provide voters with a specially designed pen to mark their ballot papers in the presidential poll.

In a direction to Rajya Sabha secretary general, who is the returning officer for the July 18 poll, and assistant returning officers in states, the EC said "in order to maintain secrecy of voting and to avoid the possibility of identification of voter at the time of counting of votes" in the presidential poll, every elector should be given a "specially designed pen" for marking preferences on the ballot paper.

The EC will provide the RO and the AROs "the required number of pens with violet ink so as to ensure that preferences are marked in violet ink only and with that pen alone".

"Any ballot paper marked with any other pen, ball point pen, etc, may be liable to rejection under Rule 31 (1) (d) of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Rules, 1974," the EC said in its June 15 letter to the officials.

Similar pens are provided to electors in Rajya Sabha and state legislative council polls.

The President is elected by the members of the electoral college consisting of elected members of both houses of Parliament and elected members of the legislative assemblies of all states, including the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

The nominated members of either Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha or legislative assemblies of the states are not eligible to be included in the electoral college and, therefore, they are not entitled to participate in the election. Similarly, members of the legislative councils are also not electors for the presidential election.

While voting takes place in Parliament House and state legislative assemblies, the counting of votes is held in the national capital.

The counting of votes for the July 18 poll will be held on July 21.

According to EC, the Constitution has expressly provided that election to the office of President will be by secret ballot.

The electors are expected to scrupulously maintain the secrecy of vote. There is no concept of open voting in these polls.

Political parties cannot issue any whip to their MPs and MLAs in the matter of voting in the presidential election.

The presidential poll is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote. In this system, the elector has to mark preferences against the names of the candidates.