34,000 postal ballots in, more on way to poll panel

Even with only three days left for counting day on December 20, postal ballots, for the Himachal Assembly elections, are still pouring in. " We are receiving reports that about a 1,000 odd postal ballots are reaching district returning officers almost on a daily basis," a senior election department official said.

So far, the Election Commission has received some 34,000 postal ballots, which is more than the last Assembly elections in 2007, when 21,000 exercised their franchise through the postal method. This is being attributed to the long time gap (some 46 days) between polling and counting days.

" It's mainly because of the long gap between the date of polling and counting of the votes.The polling percent could eventually be high as 75 per cent if the postal ballots are also added to the overall polling on November 4," Chief Electoral Officer Narinder Chauhan says.

Of the 43,000 state government employees eligible to cast their votes through the postal route, who include poll duty officials, police and home guards, nearly 27,000 have already sent their ballots while another 7,000 have been received from Army and paramilitary personnel, whose strength is 74,000.

The majority of the postal ballots are being received in Kangra and Hamirpur the two districts have 20 Assembly constituencies and have the highest postal ballots from the Army and para-military forces.

Meanwhile, preparations are under way for counting day. "Right now, the focus of the Election Commission and Returning Officers is to put give a final touches to the arrangements for the counting in 68 halls at 39 locations. Training of the officials who will be engaged in the counting are under way. There will be 68 EC observers and micro-observers on duty to over see the counting," Chief Electoral Officer Narinder Chauhan said.

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