From extra hour of voting to more polling stations: A look into new changes in TN Elections!

Tamil Nadu is just three months away from the unprecedented legislative election as the upcoming assembly poll is the first state election since the demise of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa and to take place with the social distancing regulations and COVID-19 protocols. The state has been witnessing the heat of political campaigns from the parties and the Election Commission has been preparing to conduct the crucial polls with the new modifications and mechanisms. 

The Chief Election Commission has convened the meeting with the political parties, District Magistrates, Superintendent of Police from all districts, and Commissioners of Police from across the state. The meeting was held for two days on Wednesday and Thursday in Guindy, Chennai during which the representatives of the political parties had demanded the Chief Electoral Body to conduct the polls in a single-phase and to conduct them in the last week of April, keeping in mind of festivals, exams for students, intense summer, and other factors.  

Following the meeting, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had addressed the reporters on Thursday during which he listed out the modifications that will take effect during the elections. Arora said that additional plans have been made to protect the voters from the pandemic. He said, "Keeping in mind the social distancing norms, polling hours will be extended by one hour. Along with the election dates, the hours and duration of polling will be announced. We had 68, 324 polling stations in Tamil Nadu earlier, and now with COVID norms, 25,000 polling stations have been added". 

Along with extending the voting hours, the Chief Election Commission has announced that those above the age of 80 and persons with disabilities can vote through postal ballots, and the decision of allowing postal ballots for the elderly has been taken with the view that they won't become vulnerable to the pandemic when they come to the polling stations. However, some of the political parties had objected Election Commission's drive of postal ballots for the elderly by claiming that these voters could be influenced by other parties. 

Eventually, the Election Commission has dismissed the objections and asserted that there won't be any influence. Arora said, "The Election Commission has not done this just for Tamil Nadu. It was done for Delhi Elections. If you see the standing orders of the Ministry of Home Affairs, they say people above the age of 65 are vulnerable. We have decided against 65 in Bihar and we had to create  33,000 extra polling stations in Bihar".

Addressing the objections from the parties that the elderly voters could be influenced, Arora said, "We did not have this experience in Bihar which has more voters than Tamil Nadu. We know that our systems are rigid and that it will not happen in Tamil Nadu. As I told you, we have already given the Central police force a greater role to play in randomization so no advantage can be taken". 

Arora had reiterated that the Chief Election Commission has acted on the allegations including concerns over vote scams. Responding to the suggestions from the political parties to conduct the polls in a single-phase and to announce the results in one or two days since the election, Arora added that the announcement of results in two days is not plausible as the results of one election could affect the voting pattern in other states where the elections will be conducted around the same time. Arora has left Chennai to Puducherry by asserting the factors tabled by the political parties will be kept in mind.