Detailed Guidelines issued for the conduct of GHMC elections

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Keeping in view the prevailing pandemic in the country and especially against the backdrop of notification issued for the conduct of GHMC elections, the State Election Commission (CEC) issued the comprehensive guidelines/directives to be followed during the elections.

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The SEC in its circular issued here today, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), have been issued on disinfection, sanitization, and prevention for containing COVID-19. In view of the above, the Commission prescribed the following broad guidelines to be followed during the conduct of ordinary elections to GHMC during the period of COVID-19:

SL.NO.GUIDELINES TO BE FOLLOWED
1GENERAL GUIDELINES TO BE FOLLOWED DURING ENTIRE ELECTION PROCESSES FOR ALL PERSONS 
1) Every person shall wear facemask during every election-related activity.        ( “NO MASK NO ENTRY” )
2) At the entry of Polling Station/premises used for election purpose sanitizer shall be made available. 
3) Social distancing shall be maintained as per the COVID-19 guidelines of the State government and the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
4) As far as practicable, large halls should be identified and utilized for election purposes to ensure social distancing norms. 
5) Adequate number of vehicles shall be mobilized for the movement of polling personnel and security personnel to ensure compliance of COVID-19 guidelines.6) Aarogya Setu App should be made compulsory by all election-related personnel.
2NODAL HEALTH OFFICER Nodal Health Officers shall be designated for the GHMC Level, the Circle level and the ward Constituency level to oversee COVID-19 related arrangements and preventive measures during the entire electoral process.
3TRAINING AND CAPACITY BUILDING 1) As far as practicable, training of election officials will be organized in a decentralized manner in large halls. Virtual training also to be encouraged for the conduct of theory training classes.
2) All PPTs, training materials, relevant documents, topic wise video clips, question papers for self-assessment may be uploaded in concerned official Portal so that any elected official can access it as per requirement. 
3) Sufficient number of Polling/Counting/Poll related staffs shall also be kept in reserve by Commissioner & EA, or RO to replace in case any polling personnel display COVlD-19 symptoms.
4NOMINATION PROCESS 
Following additional options to facilitate On-line mode are hereby provided: 
1) Contesting candidates may be advised to fill nomination form On-line in the official website of TSEC (tsec.gov.in) and its print may be taken for submitting before the Returning Officer. 
2) Affidavit regarding Criminal Antecedents, Assets and Liabilities and Educational Qualifications along with Nomination paper may also be filled in On-line on the website of TSEC (tsec.gov.in) and its print can be taken and after notarization, it may be submitted along with the nomination form before the Returning Officer. 
3) Candidates can also prepare reports On-line with regard to day-to-day election expenditure incurred during the election process and also final submission of election expenditure
II. Further, Commission has directed: 
1) Number of persons to accompany the candidate for submission of Nomination is restricted to two i.e. total 3 persons including contesting candidate and proposer.
2) Number of vehicles for the purposes of nomination is restricted to two.
3) Returning Officer’s chamber should have sufficient space to perform the functions of nomination, scrutiny and symbol allocation following social distancing norms. 
4) Returning Officer should allot staggered time in advance to prospective candidates for filing nomination as far as possible.
5) No person shall be allowed into RO’s chamber without a mask.
6) Large space for waiting for the candidate (s) should be arranged. 
7) All steps required to be taken for the submission of nomination form and affidavit shall continue to operate as per the provisions contained in the GHMC Act, 1955.
8) At all times, sanitizer shall be made available at RO’s chamber. 
5ELECTION MATERIAL 
Election Material Kit shall be prepared in a spacious and sufficiently large hall following all safety, sanitation and social distancing measures.
6DISTRIBUTION AND COLLECTION OF ELECTION MATERIAL 
1) Sanitizer shall be made available at all the distribution and counting centres. At these centres, all shall wear a mask.  
2) Large and spacious halls should be identified for distribution/collection of election material. 
3) As far as practicable, it should be organized in a decentralized manner. 
4) Prior staggered time should be allocated to the polling teams for distribution/ collection of election material.
7POLLING STATION ARRANGEMENTS 
Commission has issued detailed instructions for assured minimum facilities at each polling station. Now, in view of COVID-19 situation, the following additional steps should be taken: 
1) Mandatory sanitization of Polling Station, preferably, a day before the poll before the arrival of the poll party. 
2) Markings to demonstrate social distancing for a queue. 
3) Earmarking a circle for about (15) persons of with two yards (6 feet) distance for voters standing in the queue depending on the availability of space. There shall be three queues each, for male, female, and PWD/ Senior citizen voters as far as possible. Otherwise, Senior citizens, PWD voters, Lactating Mothers/ pregnant women should be allowed to enter the polling station directly without having to stand in queues.
4) The services of BLOs, field staff, volunteers etc may be engaged to monitor and regulate social distancing norms strictly. 
5) One shaded waiting area with chairs, Dari etc. will be provided, for male and female separately, within the polling station premises so that voters can participate in voting without safety concerns. 
6) Sanitizer should be provided at the entry/exit point of every polling station. 
7) Posters for awareness on COVID-19 should be displayed at visible locations. 
8) Seating arrangement in a polling station for the polling personnel and polling agents shall be made as per the norms of social distancing. 
9) If polling agent or counting agent is displaying any COVID symptom, then reliever shall be allowed by Presiding / Returning Officer, who will keep a record accordingly. 
10) Voters shall not be allowed into the polling station without a mask. 
11) During the process of identification of voter, the voters are required to lower the facemask for identification, when required. 
12) At any given time, only one vote shall be allowed to stand in front of each polling official maintaining social distance. 
8KIT FOR POLLING OFFICER 
The following items shall be provided to every polling official and security personnel (Other than those where PPEs are needed) in addition to other prescribed items:
i. Mask ii. Sanitizer iii. Face-Shield
9POSTAL BALLOT 
1) Option of Postal Ballot facility has been extended to the electors of following categories: a. Electors, who are marked as Persons with Disabilities (PwD) b. Electors above the age of 80 years c. Electors employed in notified Essential services
2) Guidelines for each of these categories is being issued separately.
10CAMPAIGN BY THE POLITICAL PARTIES/CONTESTING CANDIDATES 
1) Door to Door Campaign is subject to any other restriction(s) including extant COVID-19 guidelines, a group of five (5) persons, including candidates, excluding security personnel, if any, is allowed to do door to door campaigning. 
2) Road Shows – The convoy of vehicles should be broken after every two (2) vehicles (excluding the security vehicles, if any). The interval between two sets of a convoy of vehicles should be at a gap of 100 meters. There shall be at least half an hour gap between Roadshows of two different political parties/ candidates in the same route.
3) Election Meetings – Public gatherings/ rallies may be conducted subject to adherence to extant COVID-19 guidelines. Commissioner & Election Authority should take the following steps for this purpose: 

* Commissioner & Election Authority should, in advance, identify dedicated grounds for public gathering with clearly marked Entry/Exit points.
* In all such identified grounds, the Commissioner & Election Authority should, in advance, put markers to ensure social distancing norms by the attendees. 
* Nodal District Health Officer should be involved in the process to ensure that all COVID-19 related guidelines are adhered to by all concerned in the district. 
* Commissioner & Election Authority and Commissioner of Police/District Superintendent of Police should ensure that the number of attendees does not exceed the limit prescribed by the State Disaster Management Authority for public gatherings.
* Commissioner  & Election Authority should depute Sector Health Regulators to oversee that COVID-19 instructions/guidelines are being followed during these meetings. 
* The political parties and candidates concerned should ensure that all COVID-19 related requirements and precautions like face masks, sanitizers, social distancing etc. are fulfilled during each of these activities.
* Non-compliance of Instructions – Anybody violating instructions on COVID-19 measures will be liable to proceed against as per the provisions of Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Section 188 of the IPC, and other legal provisions as applicable, as specified in Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 29th July 2020 of Ministry of Home Affairs.
11STRONG-ROOM ARRANGEMENT 
1) Strong Room should be sanitized in advance
2) Social Distancing and other safety norms shall be followed for each activity.
12COUNTING OF VOTES 
1)  Not more than (10) counting tables should be allowed in a counting hall. 
2) Sanitizer shall be made available on each counting table.   
3) Ballot Boxes should be sanitized before placing them over the counting tables. 
4) The counting centres shall be disinfected before, during and after the counting. 
5) If required, Postal Ballots may be counted in a separate hall under the supervision of the Assistant Returning officer.
6) All the persons i.e., ROs, AROs, counting supervisors, counting Assistants, counting agents etc., shall wear masks / sanitize their hands shall be done before entering counting hall.
7) PPE kits may be made available to those staff who carry Ballot boxes and for those individuals who are involved in mixing of Ballot papers.

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