New Delhi [India], September 22: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has clarified that a decision would be taken in the next two to three days to visit Bihar, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said on Monday.

Addressing an international webinar on “Issues, challenges and protocols for conducting elections during COVID-19: sharing country experiences”, the CEC said the Commission would take a decision within the “next two to three days on visiting Bihar”.

The EC clarified that “the Commission’s schedule of visit to Bihar has no corelation with the announcement of dates of State Assembly polls”.

According to an official release of the ECI, while commenting upon the scale of the upcoming elections to the Legislative Assembly of Bihar, Arora mentioned that the total number of electors is 72.9 million.

He highlighted how COVID-19 exigencies and social distancing measures necessitated a revisit of the ECI’s extant instructions.

“The maximum number of electors at a polling station was reduced from 1,500 to 1,000, and consequently, the number of polling stations jumped by 40 per cent, from 65,000 to 100,000. These changes have huge logistics and manpower implications,” Arora said.

The CEC also observed that the ECI has placed a “lot of emphasis on extending facilitation to senior citizens, women, persons with disabilities and in current circumstances, ensuring franchise to COVID-19 positive voters and those in quarantine”.

In this context, the CEC mentioned how, beginning with the elections to the Legislative Assembly of Jharkhand in November-December 2019, and elections to the Legislative Assembly of Delhi in February 2020, the postal ballot facility was extended to voters who are aged more than 80 years, persons with disability and those who engaged in specified essential services.

“This facility of the postal ballot has been extended to COVID-19 positive electors who are in quarantine or are hospitalized,” he said.

Arora mentioned the specific and detailed guidelines that have been drawn up for conducting election during the time of COVID-19.

He also mentioned the successful conduct of elections to 18 seats of the Rajya Sabha in the month of June, 2020. He noted that elections are due in the States of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu in the first half of the year 2021.

Arora stressed on the commitment of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) across the world for the conduct of free, fair, timely and participatory polls to strengthen the democratic system.

“CEC Sunil Arora underscored the commitment of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) across the world, for the conduct of timely, free, fair and participatory elections to foster democracy in the world. He recalled former US President Abraham Lincoln’s allusion to democracies as — governments of the people, by the people, and for the people,” ECI said in a statement.

Speaking at the event, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said, “In the shadow of COVID-19, elections have not only to be free and fair but also ensure safety for the electors as well as polling officials and security personnel on duty. Presentations from various countries show comprehensive preparedness required before, during and after elections. The ultimate concern is to ensure that voters feel safe while voting in COVID-19 times.”

Over 120 delegates from 45 countries across the world participated in the Webinar.

The Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) is the largest association of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) worldwide. At present A-WEB has 115 EMBs as Members and 16 Regional Associations/Organisations as Associate Members. ECI has been very closely associated with the process of formation of A-WEB since 2011-12.

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