Updated June 3rd, 2024 at 11:44 IST

Counting of Votes: Timing, Centres, Process - All You Need To Know

Counting of votes to begin at 8 am tomorrow, June 4. Know the process, setup and all other details related to counting of votes

Reported by: Nandini Verma
How Are Votes Counted? Know Process, Timing | Image:PTI

 India's monumental seven-phase election, the largest democratic exercise in history, has come to a close after 44 days of voting across the vast nation. From April 19 to June 1, an estimated 969 million registered voters had the opportunity to cast their ballots at approximately one million polling stations. This extensive process, which included braving soaring temperatures and navigating remote and challenging terrains, will culminate with the counting of votes on Tuesday, June 4.

 Phased Voting and Turnout

The election was conducted in seven phases, with voter turnout percentages recorded as follows:

- April 19: 66.1%

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- April 26: 66.7%

- May 7: 61.0%

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- May 13: 67.3%

- May 20: 60.5%

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- May 25: 63.4%

- June 1: 62%

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These phases saw the mobilization of 15 million polling staff who traversed the length and breadth of the country to ensure that every eligible voter could participate, regardless of their location in remote villages, hills, deserts, or conflict zones.

 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the VVPAT System

Votes were cast using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), a technology developed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in collaboration with government-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd. These battery-powered machines operate independently of the internet, ensuring security and integrity in the voting process.

An EVM comprises two main components:

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- Control Unit: Managed by the polling officer, this unit controls the voting process. It includes a "ballot button" to activate the voting process, a "busy" indicator during voting, a "close" button to end voting, and a "clear" button to reset the machine. It also displays the total number of votes cast.

- Balloting Unit: This unit, placed in the voting compartment, lists candidates' names and symbols with corresponding blue buttons for voters to press to register their vote. It includes braille script to assist visually impaired voters.

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In 2013, the ECI introduced the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system to enhance transparency. After casting their vote, voters can see a paper slip for about seven seconds confirming their choice before it falls into a secure drop box. While some opposition parties have demanded that all VVPAT slips be counted, the Supreme Court has mandated that VVPAT slips from five randomly selected polling stations per assembly constituency be matched with the EVM results.

 India's Vote Counting Process: How Votes Are Counted

As India concludes its extensive seven-phase election, the focus now shifts to the meticulous process of vote counting, which is set to begin on June 4. The counting of votes will begin at 8 am on June 4. With 543 seats in the Lok Sabha at stake, here's a detailed look at how the votes are counted.

3-Tier Security 

On Tuesday, nearly 7,000 officials will be diligently engaged in the crucial task of counting votes at seven designated centers spread across the capital city. The counting process is scheduled to commence at 8 am under the watchful eye of a three-tier security arrangement at each venue. Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi, P Krishnamurthy, affirmed that almost all necessary arrangements have been meticulously put in place for the counting exercise spanning the seven Lok Sabha constituencies.

Vote Counting Centres

The designated centers for counting are strategically located across Delhi: SKV Bharat Nagar for Chandni Chowk, ITI Nand Nagri for North East Delhi, CWG Village Sports Complex for East Delhi, Atal Adarsh Bengali Balika School in Gole Market for New Delhi, Delhi Technical University in Shahbad Daulatpur for North West Delhi, NSUT Sector 3 in Dwarka for West Delhi, and Jija Bai ITI for Women in Sirifort for South Delhi.

According to a poll panel official, each of these seven counting centers will witness the meticulous involvement of nearly 1,000 personnel. The centers are divided into 10 separate halls, with each hall dedicated to counting the votes from a specific assembly constituency. Since each Lok Sabha seat in Delhi comprises 10 assembly constituencies, this arrangement ensures an organized and systematic counting process. Within each hall, there will be several tables, varying in number based on the voter turnout in the parliamentary constituencies. Each table will be manned by a counting supervisor, a counting assistant, representatives from the candidates, and a peon.

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The entire counting process will be closely supervised by returning officers and assistant returning officers. The counting will commence with the postal ballots at 8 am, followed by the votes cast in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from 8:30 am onwards.

 Secure Storage and Preparation

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Once voting ends, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are sealed and stored in a secure strongroom within each parliamentary constituency. These strongrooms are heavily guarded to ensure the integrity of the machines and the votes they contain.

 Counting Day Procedure

On the day of counting, the EVMs are unsealed in the presence of representatives from all participating political parties to ensure transparency. The counting process is divided into several key stages:

1. Postal Ballots: The Returning Officer (RO) begins by counting votes received through postal ballots. This initial count typically takes about 30 minutes.

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2. EVM Votes: The counting of votes recorded on the EVMs starts 30 minutes after the postal ballot count begins. Only the control units of the EVMs are required during this phase.

 Setup and Process

Given that each parliamentary constituency is divided into several assembly segments, the vote counting for each segment takes place in a single hall. Here’s how the setup works:

- Counting Halls: Each hall is equipped with 14 tables. The control units from the EVMs are distributed among these tables.

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- Adjustments: If there is a large number of candidates, the number of tables or halls can be increased, provided prior permission is obtained from the electoral body. Counting may also occur at multiple locations within an assembly constituency under the supervision of Assistant Returning Officers (AROs).

 Ensuring Accuracy

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Before counting begins, several checks are conducted to verify that the control units are properly sealed, correctly assigned, and functioning as intended. 

 Counting Process

1. Rounds of Counting: Votes are counted in rounds. In each round, the votes from 14 EVMs are tallied.

2. Announcing Results: After each round, results are announced and recorded on a blackboard at each table.

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3. Supervision: Counting supervisors and assistants, appointed by the RO through a randomisation process, manage the counting at each table.

 Displaying Results

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The control unit of each EVM has a "Results" button. When pressed, it displays the number of votes each candidate has received, one by one, accompanied by a beep sound for each candidate. The control unit indicates "End" once all votes have been displayed.

 Conclusion

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The counting process is rigorous and transparent, ensuring that every vote is accurately counted and reported. As the results start to come in on June 4, the outcome of this historic election will soon be revealed, reflecting the will of the Indian electorate.

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Published June 3rd, 2024 at 09:41 IST