GUWAHATI, April 11 - What if you go to a polling station to exercise your franchise and you are told that someone has already cast a vote in your name? Wait, you still have a chance to cast yours.
�Tendered votes� are concepts not commonly known, but in the last Lok Sabha elections as many as 20 such votes were cast in the State. Eleven tendered votes were cast in Dibrugarh, three in Barpeta, one each in Tezpur and Kaliabor, and two each in Nagaon and Lakhimpur.
�Normally, when a voter is told by the polling officer at the booth that someone had already voted in their name, they tend to go back. But they can still cast a tendered vote and it is their right under election laws,� an election official said.
The official said such instances should be immediately brought to the notice of the presiding officer.
According to Election Commission rules, the presiding officer may ask the elector questions relating to his/her identity. �If the presiding officer is satisfied about the identity of the elector on his/her satisfactorily answering such questions relating to his/her identity, the elector will be allowed to vote by means of an tendered ballot paper, but not through the machine,� the rules say.
A tendered ballot paper is the same as the ballot paper used on the balloting unit, but it will have the words �Tendered Ballot Paper� written on it in black. Though the total number of tendered ballots polled is published in the public domain, the identity of the voters who cast these votes is not revealed publicly.
In Assam, 282 tendered ballots were cast in 2016 Assembly polls, with the highest number of 112 tendered ballots recorded in Dispur LAC.
In case, the identity of a voter is challenged by a polling agent of a candidate present inside the polling booth, the presiding officer will hold a summary inquiry into the challenge. �The presiding officer may take the help of locals, including village headman, etc.,� the election official said.
If after the inquiry, the presiding officer considers that the challenge has not been established, the voter will be allowed to cast his/her vote. However, in case the challenge is established, the person will be debarred from voting and will be handed over to the police with a written complaint.
The presiding officer has to keep a record of such tendered and challenged votes in prescribed formats. The records of challenged votes are not published along with voter turnout figures, which include figures for tendered votes.
Election officials here have warned that some false messages regarding the two concepts are being circulated in social media to mislead voters.