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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: As the counting of votes in Odisha will clock a longer duration than its national counterparts, the Election Commission has geared up with all exigency arrangements at the counting halls in the State to conduct the process smoothly. For the first time, counting halls across the State to have ACs fitted with to beat the May heat and humidity.

It needs mentioning that parts of Odisha are currently reeling under a heat wave, and forecasts predict the heat wave extending to coastal areas on the counting day.

Meanwhile, a two-day training session for the Returning Officers (ROs) begins here on Monday. The training session will impart the ROs about the counting procedures and the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) regarding VVPAT counting in the State. On day one, ROs from fourteen districts are taking part and the ROs of remaining district will join the training session tomorrow, informed CEO, Odisha, Surendra Kumar.

"The counting process will take more time in Odisha as the State is witnessing simultaneous polls (Parliament and Assembly). When in other States counting will take place on 14 tables, in Odisha it will be 7 tables for Lok Sabha and 7 for Assembly polls. For which, counting process will stretch longer in the State," explained Kumar.

He also added that since for the first time VVPATs are to be counted sequentially in the State, which is a time consuming process. As per recent Apex court directive, Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips of five electronic voting machines in every constituency should be counted instead of just one EVM in the upcoming elections. And the EVMs, whose VVPAT will be counted, will be selected on a random basis via a transparent lottery system, explained Kumar and added that a minimum of 45 minutes is required to complete the process of such sequential counting of VVPATs.

Significantly, the training session for ROs held here has a fabricated counting hall prototype and mock polled votes in demo EVMs, so as to provide them a feel of real-time counting hall ambience. Along with ROs, counting supervisors and assistants have joined the session today.

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