In a massive embarrassment for the Election Commission (EC) in the state, Tamil Nadu is set to witness re-elections in 13 polling booths across five districts on May 19. The re-polls have been ordered by the Election Commission following a report submitted by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) which stated that errors have been recorded in 46 polling booths across 13 districts. The state, which has consistently topped poll-time cash seizures across the country, was already in the hall of shame with the historic cancellation of elections in the Vellore parliamentary constituency.
While the CEO stated on Wednesday that the re-polls were largely on account of polling booth officials not formatting the EVMs following the mock polls, a report released by the EC on Thursday provides more damning reasons.
Eight booths in the Dharmapuri parliamentary constituency, which includes the Pappireddipatti bye-assembly constituency, are up for re-poll. Soon after polling, the DMK’s Lok Sabha candidate S Senthilkumar had complained to the EC alleging that booth agents of the PMK had cast multiple votes.
The reason given by the EC states, “The District Election Officer, Dharmapuri has stated that it is proved beyond doubt that the polling agents entered the voting compartment along with the voters on many occasions in the following 8 polling stations.” The reasoning adds that in some cases, “The vote of elderly people were cast either by political party agents or the person who accompanies them.” The Returning Officers for the parliamentary constituency and the assembly segment recommended a re-poll since “the voters have not cast their vote in a free and fair manner”.
The booths in Dharmapuri district undergoing re-polls include: 181 Govt High School, Ayyampatti, 182 Govt High School Ayyampatti, 192 Govt High Secondary School, Nathamedu, 193 Govt High Secondary School, Nathamedu, 194 Govt High Secondary School, Nathamedu, 195 Govt High Secondary School, Nathamedu, 196 Panchayat Union Elementary School, Jallipudur, and 197 Panchayat Union Elementary School, Jallipudur.
Two booths in the Theni parliamentary constituency, which includes the Andipatti and Periyakulam bye-assembly segments, will witness re-polls. In the Andipatti assembly segment, re-poll will take place in 67 Kammavar Saraswathi Middle School, Balasamudram. The reason given by the EC states, “Mock poll data was cleared from CU (control unit). However, VVPAT slips of mock poll were not removed.”
In the Periyakulam assembly segment, re-poll will take place in 197 Sankaranarayana Middle School, Vadugapatti. The EC states that the Close Result Clear (CRC) protocol was not followed in the allotted EVM. In a significant observation, the EC says, “Subsequently, EVMs and VVPATs were changed without prior permission/ intimation. Unable to say with conviction and evidence whether all those who voted in originally allotted EVM cast their vote in replaced EVM.”
One booth in the Thiruvallur parliamentary constituency, which includes the Poonamallee bye-assembly constituency, is up for re-poll. The Returning Officers recommended a re-poll since actual polling was begun on April 18 without first clearing the results of the mock poll that was held to check discrepancies. “Hence, showing a variation of 38 votes. Presiding Officer has corrected by casting votes on NOTA, so as to equate the variation,” stated the EC. The booth undergoing re-poll is 195 Panchayat Union Elementary School, Mettupalayam.
One booth in the Erode parliamentary constituency is up for re-poll. Here too, the results of the mock polls were not cleared prior to the beginning of the actual polls. “The Presiding Officer had conducted mock poll with 50 votes poll and not cleared the data before commencement of poll. During the closure of poll, it is confirmed that the difference between the CU and 17A is 41 votes instead of 50 votes. The reason for missing of 9 votes could not be traced.”
The booth undergoing re-poll is 248 Panchayat Union Elementary School, Tirumangalam.
One booth in the Cuddalore parliamentary constituency is up for re-poll at the 210 Municipal High School, Thiruvathigai. The Returning Officer’s recommendation for a re-poll stated that the corresponding button to press for a candidate was not unmasked. “In the consequent of this error, the candidate’s blue button was not open and visible (sic).”
As per EC orders, VVPAT vote slips (of actual polls) will be counted in 44 of the 46 polling booths recommended for re-polls