Voting in Tamil Nadu is set to begin at 7am on Tuesday, and government staff have been given posting orders as polling and zonal officers to conduct the democratic exercise in the state. The officers have already begun reaching their respective polling booths to arrange for Election Day, even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
The Election Commission has permitted patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus to vote between 6 pm and 7 pm on Tuesday. Polling officers, however, are weary of contracting the disease themselves.
Speaking to TNM, a polling officer from Thiruvallur constituency said, “We have come here to conduct our democratic duty but we are worried about trying to maintain physical distancing among the voters, and allowing COVID-19 positive voters to exercise their right. The government said that they will provide the polling officers with PPE kits but we are still concerned about the spread of infection.”
He continued, “We do not know how we will wait in the same premises till the ballot boxes are removed after COVID-19 patients leave the place,” adding that the government could have distributed postal votes to COVID-19 patients at hospitals. Postal ballots were only allowed for elderly voters above the age of 80.
The officer, who is posted at an anganwadi, also expressed concern over the lack of space required to keep physical distance among voters. “This is a congested place and 2000 people are going to come to this booth on Tuesday. I am concerned about maintaining physical distancing among them and how this will turn out when COVID-19 patients come in,” he said.
Additionally, the women polling officers complained about a lack of water and sanitation conditions in the polling booths. A polling officer, who was posted at a government-aided school in Tondiarpet zone, said, “There is no water in the polling booth to use the restrooms. They are saying that they will provide pots of water for use but I do not know when they will start providing them. We are unable to use the washrooms.”
“The people here also warned about the increasing COVID-19 infection in this area. So we are afraid of contracting the infection,” she added.