Kerala Assembly elections 2021: Ballot fraud in postal votes of three lakh officers on election duty
According to reports, postal ballots of nearly three lakh officers assigned for the upcoming Assembly election duty were sabotaged. Also, the Facilitation Centre system proposed by the Election Commission (EC) for officials on election duty to cast their votes in advance will not be implemented. It is alleged that the official lobby behind the move conspires to follow the old system of allowing service organisations to manipulate votes.
Earlier, the Election Commission had directed the election officials to collect postal ballot applications from the officers on polling duty either during their first or second phase of training or suggested the implementation of a facilitation centre. Also, only those unable to cast their votes were directed to use postal ballots shared through registered post (including receipt after receiving) within 24 hours.
In addition, the Commission had also directed that the dropbox, which is used regularly to deposit postal votes in the offices of election officials, should not be used. The new system was introduced when the Central Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer received complaints that the service organisations are manipulating the postal ballots of officers of election duty. However, it is alleged that under the leadership of service organisation leaders, the process of collecting postal ballot applications in large numbers and recording them has already begun in many government offices across the state and left organisations are at the forefront of this. Reportedly, the home addresses included in the postal ballot applications of officers are also changed to official addresses.
Till now, the authorities have not issued any notification regarding the facilitation centre. However, the Election Commission's postal ballot voting will be held from March 28 to 30 at designated places in the state for those working in the essential service sector, those who are unable to go to the polling station to cast their votes, officials said.
According to EC, the facilitation centre should be implemented at the polling station or at a place where the second phase of training for the officers on polling duty are conducted. For this, each Returning Officer should appoint a gazetted officer. The gazetted officer has to transfer the envelopes containing the postal ballots to the strong rooms.
It is also directed that the register containing details of postal ballots should be stamped every day and the whole proceedings should be recorded. Moreover, candidates should also be informed about the location of the facilitation centre and the timing of the voting process.
In each district, the Nodal officer is in charge of coordinating the proceedings. The same Nodal officer is responsible of handling postal applications to other districts. Even though the second phase of election training has started in the state, facilitation centre have not been established yet.