The guidelines were framed after consulting the health ministry, national and state political parties and chief electoral officers

The use of face masks and thermal scanning of all voters has been made mandatory by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in fresh guidelines issued for the upcoming general elections as well as by-elections keeping in view the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidelines released today also stipulate that those who do not meet the health ministry’s temperature norms will have to cast their votes in the last hour of polling.

The ECI released the guidelines after consulting with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, national and state political parties and chief electoral officers of states and union territories.

The guidelines come ahead of elections in the states of Bihar and Chhattisgarh.

“Keeping in view the above, following broad guidelines have been framed with respect to key activities of the conduct of elections, considering the upcoming General Elections and bye-elections in various States/UTs during the period of COVID-19,” the official statement said.

Covid-19 precautions to be be enforced during polls

According to the guidelines, every person is required to wear a face mask during every election related activity. The commission has also made it mandatory for all premises used for election purposes to install a thermal scanner and scan all people entering the polling booth.

The guidelines have also mandated the availability of sanitizer, soap and water at the polling stations besides strictly adhering to the norms of social distancing.

Another important guideline has to do with the body temperature of voters who turn up at a polling station.

“If temperature is above the set norms of MoHFW at first reading, then it will be checked twice and if it remains, then the elector shall be provided with token/certificate and will be asked to come for voting at the last hour of poll. At the last hour of poll, such electors shall be facilitated voting, strictly following COVID-19 related preventive measures,” the commission said.

Fewer voters per polling station due to pandemic

The election commission has also reduced the maximum number of voters who will be assigned to a specific polling station.

Each station will have up to 1,000 voters, down from the earlier norm of 1,500 voters to a polling station.

The commission has also advised the authorities to identify large halls and open places to be converted into polling booths for effective maintenance of social distancing. The commission has also mandated adequate number of vehicles shall be mobilized for movement of polling personnel, security personnel to ensure compliance of COVID-19 guidelines.

The commission said that Nodal Health Officer shall be designated for the State, the District and the Assembly Constituency to oversee COVID-19 related arrangements and preventive measures during the entire electoral process.

For EVM and VVPATS, it said that the first & second randomization and preparation of the machines should be done in large halls and sanitizers should be provided in sufficient quantity for use during the process. Apart from that gloves should be made available to each official handling EVM and VVPAT.