Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 2: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has extended the postal ballot facility for senior citizens above 80 years of age, Persons with Disabilities (PwD) or divyang, and COVID positive/suspects in home and institutional quarantine in the forthcoming Assam Assembly elections.

“Postal ballot facility has been provided by the ECI to three new categories of voters. The first category is senior citizens who are above 80 years of age. The second category is PwD or divyang. And the third category is voters who are COVID affected or COVID suspect. After the onset of the COVID pandemic, the ECI has made these categories eligible for postal ballot,” Chief Electoral Officer, Assam, Nitin Khade said in a press conference here today.

He added that earlier postal ballot facility was only available for armed forces personnel and Central armed police forces personnel.

“The Election Commission’s aim is to reduce inconvenience for these three new categories of voters. So if they can get postal ballot facility they can vote from their homes. Detailed guideline has been sent by the ECI. I appeal to these three categories of voters to avail this facility,” Khade said.

All such voters in the three categories will have to apply for the postal ballot within 5 days of notification for election in their Assembly constituencies if they wish to avail the option of postal ballot for voting.

“As the notification for the first phase of Assembly polls in Assam is out today the timeline for applying for postal ballot for electors residing in the constituencies which will go to the polls in the first phase is up to March 6,” Khade said.

He said that the BLOs have been instructed to visit the homes of voters belonging to these three categories in their respective polling station areas.

“Our BLOs have already started visits to homes of such voters from today. If such voters want to cast their votes by postal ballot they can submit the form. If they do not want to opt for postal ballot, then they can come to the polling stations and we will facilitate them to cast their votes in the polling stations also,” Khade said.

“After March 6, our Returning Officers will verify the details. If some voter has decided to vote by postal ballot then his or her name will be marked accordingly in the voters list,” he said.

“Such voters will not be eligible to cast their votes in the polling station if they have opted for the postal ballot facility. This is to prevent duplicacy,” he added.

Khade said that it is only after getting the total number of voters who have opted for postal ballot that the ECI will print the postal ballots.

The last date for voting by postal ballot will be a day before the date of poll in a particular constituency.

He said that as per the latest electoral roll, there are 2, 90,238 electors above the age of 80 years in Assam and there are 1, 33,789 PwD electors. Besides, as of today, there are 289 active COVID cases in Assam.