Stage set in Meghalaya for Rajya Sabha polls under new voting arrangements

Shillong, June 18: Meghalaya Election Department on Thursday conducted their final hands-on training for Rajya Sabha polls to be held tomorrow.

“These are the first elections in the state which are being held in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, so, we have taken special care to ensure that the entire voting process is not only free and fair but also safe,” Chief Electoral Officer F R Kharkongor stated.

Kharkongor informed that three hands-on training sessions with the Assembly staff and polling officials were conducted. He also informed that the Election Commission had directed state governments to depute a Senior Nodal Officer from the Health Department to supervise COVID-19 containment measures.

Meghalaya CEO, F.R Kharkongor

Apart from staggered entry for electors and officials, mandatory use of face masks, gloves and maintaining social distancing, a separate holding room has also been prepared as a precautionary measure.

“There will be a medical room within this premises. There will be a medical team and also an ambulance on standby,” Kharkongor informed.

He also stated that awareness materials such as pocket voter guides have been prepared for the electors.

Since polling for Rajya Sabha elections will be conducted by open ballot, Kharkongor revealed that the electors will have to use a violet sketch pen to mark their preferences – which will also be sanitised periodically.

Further, only three MLAs will be allowed to place their vote at a time to avoid overcrowding and maintain social distance, he said. “The marshals arranged by Commissioner Secretary will give them the pocket guide and escort them,” he added.

He also revealed that the Election Commission has issued a new directive wherein personal ballot provision can be given to electors who are hospitalised because of COVID-19. However, he added that thankfully no electors in the state are suffering from the virus.  

Kharkongor also informed that according to proviso of rule 39AA of the RP Act, an elector who is a member of a political party is required to show the ballot paper to the authorised agent of the political party for verification.

“If he fails to show, then his vote can stand cancelled. In case the elector shows his ballot to another party’s authorising agent, then also his vote can be cancelled,” he informed adding that an Independent MLA cannot show it to anyone.

Meanwhile, regarding KHNAM MLA Adelbert Nongrum’s announcement to abstain from voting, Kharkongor said that the MLAs are at liberty to vote or abstain from voting.

“This is a party matter, it is like a game of football. It is up to the teams to decide which player will sit and which player will play, the referee’s job is to conduct the game,” he stated.