After seven phase polling, the stage is set for counting of votes on Thursday

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New Delhi : After a lengthy seven-phase Lok Sabha poll that lasted for more than a month, all eyes are now riveted on the counting of votes that will be taken up on Thursday morning.

Election Commission of India (ECI) is monitoring all preparations at all the centres where counting of votes for the 542 Lok Sabha seats and four State assemblies – Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha — will be held from May 23 morning.

District Magistrates and all the concerned officials are pouring over minute details of arrangements, including security measures, for the smooth conduct of the counting of votes. In accordance with the instructions of the ECI, five polling stations will be selected on a random basis for audit and verification of the VVPAT slips. The process of VVPAT verification may take four to five hours.

‘This time around all results will be available on real time basis on the website of the Election Commission and on the app of Voter Helpline. On the counting day, multi-tier security arrangements are being made with the deployment of Central police forces as well,’ sources in the Election Commission said. Strong rooms where Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have been kept are under strict security cover. The EC had pressed in service nearly 55 lakh EVMs for 2019 elections.

The sources said that mock drills have already been carried out and all necessary training has been given to the counting personnel in the districts who will be supervised by the Assistant Returning Officers.

With nearly a million polling stations across the country and a registered base of 91 crore electors, elections to the 17th Lok Sabha of the country’s Parliament are the biggest democratic exercise in the world. The total number of electors represented an increase of 7.5 crores as compared to 2014 elections.

This time around, voter turnout till the end of the seventh phase was put at 67.11 per cent, one per cent more than the 2014 general elections, EC sources said. The sources said that 2019 polls also saw closing of gap between men and women voters to 1.6 crore. The process of counting of votes will begin with 18 lakh votes of the personnel of armed forces.

As handling of complaints on the alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by the EC continued to hit the headlines, the sources said that as many as 510 complaints were filed before the Commission which were dealt with at three levels – Returning Officer, State Election Commission and the ECI – and in many cases censure or gag order was issued. The sources said that MCC was not a law but a code of conduct drawn up with the general consent and agreement of all political parties to ensure that level playing field was available to all.

For the first time in 2019 general elections, nearly 1.49 lakh complaints were filed by citizens as part of the c-VIGIL initiative of the Commission. The sources said that about 78 per cent of these complaints were found to be correct and prompt action within 100 minutes was taken in all the cases, many of whom impinged on violation of secrecy of casting of votes by electors.UNI

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