Shahnawaz Akhtar

Close of Poll and End of Poll: What they mean in voting. Initial polling percentages provided by midnight, final figures by noon next day

Amidst the debate in the country about why the Election Commission of India (ECI) could not announce the actual polling percentage immediately after voting concludes at the constituencies, Koderma Returning Officer Naman Priyesh Lakra claimed that by midnight of the polling day, they can provide the exact Close of Poll data and the final percentage by noon the next day, called End of Poll.

Koderma Lok Sabha constituency, known as the Gateway of Jharkhand, consists of three districts—Giridih, Koderma, and Hazaribagh. It is a Naxal-affected district with a total of 2,552 booths. Despite this, RO Lakra asserts that the maximum time to get the final polling percentage is by noon the next day after the poll.

The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) has approached the Supreme Court, seeking a mandate for the ECI to release final data as soon as voting ends, instead of several days later as was done in the first two phases. The ADR petitioned that polling percentages with the exact number of votes should be made public by the ECI within 24 hours, as the commission receives Form 17C from the Presiding Officer (PO) by then, where the total number of votes at every booth is mentioned.

However, the lawyers representing the ECI claimed that it takes several days for them to gather all the polling-related data.

When asked by eNewsroom about the timeline for providing the final polling percentage, RO Lakra detailed the process. For every 20 booths, there will be a person collecting the data in the control room. From some polling stations, where there might be connectivity issues, a sector magistrate and reserved micro observers will monitor the situation. They will provide reasons for any delays, and an accurate polling percentage can be calculated every two hours.

The RO also mentioned that this time, a trial run was conducted through the Suvidha Portal to help presiding officers get accustomed to the system.

Close of Poll

Information on polling percentages is provided first at 11:15 AM and again at 1:15 PM. Polls close at 5 PM, but as some people remain in the queue, figures are expected by 7 PM. In some cases, the end-of-poll figures may be available by 10 or 11 PM, but typically, they are released by midnight. 98 or 99 percent of the machines are received by midnight. An exact figure is aimed to be provided by then.

End of Poll

After receiving all the machines, PO diaries, and Form 17C the next day, the data is compiled and entered into the system. By noon the next day, the end-of-poll figure is available. Normally, the End of Poll data is slightly higher than the Close of Poll figure. Adequate training has been provided to ensure the final polling percentage remains accurate, according to the RO.

Delays occur because the information received over the phone must match the machine data, PO diaries, and Form 17C to avoid mistakes. For example, in the last assembly by-poll at Dumri, the difference between the Close of Poll and End of Poll was only 0.02 percent, added the Koderma RO.

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