The Election Commission of India announced a series of extraordinary measures for the Bihar Assembly elections, which will be held in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Steps taken by the EC to ensure that the elections do not result in an uncontrolled spread of the virus in Bihar
Fewer voters per booth: Keeping in mind the need for physical distancing, the maximum number of voters per polling station had been reduced from 1,500 to 1,000.
Protective gear: Arrangements have been made for 7 lakh units of hand sanitisers, 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh face shields, and 23 lakh single use gloves.
Postal ballots: In order to protect vulnerable populations, the facility of “postal ballots” has been extended to all those over the age of 80.
Special facilities for infected: Besides postal ballots, a special protocol has also been designed for active cases of the disease. These voters would be allowed to vote in the last hour of polling day separately, under the guidance of local health officials.
Extended timings: To deal with an anticipated slower pace of proceedings, the timings for polling have been extended by an hour. While usually votes are cast between 7 am and 5 pm, polling will now continue until 6 pm at all booths except those categorised as affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE).
Rules for candidates: Only 2 people including the candidate, and two vehicles are allowed on nomination day, which under normal circumstances is used as an occasion for a show of strength and support by candidates. Door-to-door campaign parties can have only up to five people including the candidate. Road shows are allowed, but only with five vehicles.
Rules for election rallies:
“physical campaigning” had not been barred. On restrictions, if any, on the numbers of people allowed at rallies, the decision would lie with the district administration, and that district collectors had already drawn up lists of permitted rally venues. They had been asked to mark the ground to ensure “do gaz ki doori” among participants.