The Lok Sabha election 2019 schedule was announced by the Election Commission on March 10, 2019. The elections will be held in seven phases across the country starting from April 11 and the final result will be out of May 23.
As of 2019, 900 million people are registered as voters and there will be approximately 10 lakh polling stations in this Lok Sabha Elections as compared to 9 lakh polling stations in 2014. The electronic voting machines this time will also have photographs of candidates next to the symbol of the party.
All arrangements have been made to conduct fair and peaceful elections. The Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct also came into force with the announcement of the election schedule.
Following are some of the latest updates of the upcoming Lok Sabha Polls:
Voting Dates: April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19
Social media platforms present voluntary code of ethics for the 2019 General Elections
• The social media platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India on March 20, 2019 presented a “Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019” to the Election Commission of India.
• The ‘code of ethics’ has been developed as a follow up to the meeting with IAMAI and representatives of social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat and TikTok etc.
• It has been developed to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements and to ensure free, fair and ethical usage of social media platforms to maintain the integrity of the electoral process for the General Elections 2019.
• Volluntarily agreed upon by the participants, the code comes into operation with immediate effect. Under the code, the platforms have committed to process any violations reported under Section 126 of RP Act, 1951 within three hours as per Sinha Committee recommendations.
• The platforms have also agreed to create a high priority dedicated reporting mechanism for the ECI and appoint dedicated teams during the period of General Elections for taking expeditious action on any reported violations.
• Besides, they have also agreed to provide a mechanism for political advertisers to submit pre-certified advertisements issued by media certification and monitoring committee.
• This is the first time that the internet-based firms have voluntarily adopted norms for the online campaign.
Gauri Sawant becomes first transgender election ambassador
• The Election Commission of India has appointed transgender social activist Gauri Sawant, as one of the 12 election ambassadors from Maharashtra. During 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections there was no record of transgender voters.
• Following the Supreme Court order, transgenders got the right to vote for the first time in 2014. In 2014, 918 voters were registered in this third category. This number has doubled in five years and now it is 2,086.
• Overall, there are 113, 184, and 123 registered transgenders in constituencies of Bhiwandi, Kalyan, and East Mumbai respectively. North Mumbai constituency has registered the maximum number of 324 transgender.
• According to the Election Commission, Gauri Sawant's appointment would help in more people from this category getting registered during the final phase of voters enrollment.
• Election Commission has also nominated the renowned sportsmen, film-makers, literary personalities of the respective constituencies as the goodwill ambassadors to induce more voters to vote in the Lok Sabha elections.
ECI directs social medial platforms to come up with code of ethics for Industry
• The Election Commission of India on March 19, 2019 held in-depth interactive session with representatives of various social media platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on the usage of social media ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019.
• While citing the Model Code of Conduct as a unique and historic document that is followed by all political parties, CEC Sunil Arora directed the social media organisations to come up with a similar code for the ongoing election process in the immediate context and a lasting document in the long run.
• The Chief Election Commissioner suggested that a clear clause on users' voluntarily agreeing not to misuse social media platforms for election or political purposes should be considered by the management.
• He reiterated that role of social media in helping spread information as well as curbing misinformation cannot be underestimated and added that deterrents like some punitive action against users misusing the platform should be considered pro-actively.
• The meeting was attended by the industry head Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and representatives from social media organizations such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, TikTok and BigoTV.
• The IAMAI and social media intermediaries willingly agreed to come up with a ‘Code of Ethics’ for the Industry laying down operational details by tomorrow evening.
ECI appoints special expenditure observers for Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu
• The Election Commission has appointed two eminent former civil servants Shailendra Handa and Madhu Mahajan as special expenditure observers for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections.
• While Shailendra Handa ex-IRS (1980) has been deployed in Maharashtra, Madhu Mahajan ex-IRS (1982) has been deployed in Tamil Nadu.
• Both these officers have a rich experience of working in the investigation wing of the IT Department and have supervised many successful search and seizure actions unearthing tax evasion in complicated cases.
• The special observers will be supervising and monitoring the work being done by the electoral machinery and ensure that stringent and effective enforcement action is undertaken based on intelligence inputs and complaints received through C-vigil and voter helpline 1950 against all persons and entities trying to induce voters by distributing cash, liquor and freebies in order to vitiate the poll process.
Election Commission holds central observers' meet
• The Election Commission on March 14, 2019 held a meeting of central observers in New Delhi, as a part of its preparations for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
• The meeting was held to brief them about their roles and responsibilities during election duty. This is the first such meeting since election dates were declared earlier this month.
• The observers are drawn from various central services, such as the Indian Revenue Service, the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service. They are considered to be on EC duty till the elections process ends.
EC-appointed special observers reach Srinagar
• The Special Observers appointed by the Election Commission have reached Srinagar on a two-day visit for fresh assessment of the ground situation for holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
• The team comprising Vinod Zutshi, Dr Noor Mohammad and AS Gill will interact with the representatives of political parties, district election officers, security and administrative officials and other stakeholders.
• The team would hold similar exercise in Jammu on March 15, 2019. The panel will meet Chief Secretary and State Police Chief in Jammu.
• An Election Commission team, led by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, had visited the state earlier this month before the announcement of Lok Sabha polls.
Income Tax dept deploys over 400 officers across Gujarat to monitor polls expenditure
• The Income Tax department has deployed over 400 of its officers across Gujarat to keep a close watch on election expenditure and check the flow of black money during the Lok Sabha elections.
• The I-T department has set up a control room at their state headquarters in Ahmadabad and will function round the clock. This comes following the Election Commission's instruction to curb the use of black money during the elections.
• The polling for all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held on April 23. Apart from Gujarat, the I-T department will also monitor cash flow in the adjoining Union Territories of Diu, Daman and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
Exclusion from NRC draft will not affect voting rights: EC to SC
• The Election Commission of India on March 12, 2019 told the Supreme Court that exclusion of names of persons from draft NRC in Assam will not affect their voting rights in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls provided their names feature in the electoral rolls.
• This was stated by the ECI secretary, who had been summoned by the apex court last week in connection with a PIL. The plea alleged that several categories of persons in Assam have been deprived of voting rights ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
• The petitioner said that a category of persons whose names were excluded from the voter list included some whose names appeared in the draft NRC published on July 30, 2018.
• The three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, asked EC to clarify what action will be taken in case a person's name is not included in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam to be published on July 31, but it features in the electoral rolls.
• The court also asked the poll panel to provide the data about the addition and deletion of names from voters' list as revised in January for 2017, 2018 and 2019 by March 28, 2019, which is the next date of hearing.
EC debarred 102 leaders of Bihar from contesting Lok Sabha Elections 2019
• The Election Commission has debarred 102 leaders of Bihar from contesting Lok Sabha and Assembly elections for non- submission of election expenditure.
• Most of them are Independents and candidates from registered parties of the state. The Bihar Chief Electoral Officer H R Srinivasa said that submission of election expenditure is mandatory for all candidates.
• He said the list of debarred candidates has been sent to the concerned Returning Officers. District Returning Officers have also been instructed to prevent these candidates from filing nomination papers.
96,000 VVPAT machines to be used during Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra
• As many as 96,000 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines will be used during polling in all the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra next month.
• According to an official statement, a total of 1.35 lakh VVPAT machines will be made available for Maharashtra. Of these, 96,000 will be used at polling centres and the additional VVPAT machines will be put under the custody of zonal officers.
• The process of training 6 lakh employees to handle these machines will also be arranged soon. These employees will be provided with training at three different levels.
• The VVPAT is an independent printer system attached with electronic voting machines (EVMs) that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
• A receipt will be generated in seven seconds after a vote is cast. The receipt will carry the election symbol, name and the serial number of the voter in the list. With this receipt, the voter can verify his vote cast.
• The technology will be used for the first time in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Maharashtra, which has the second highest number of Lok Sabha seats, will vote in four phases between April 11 and 29.
EC: Photo voter slips not to be valid as stand-alone identification document for voting
• The Election Commission of India has directed that all voters will have to produce voter identity card or one of the eleven specified photo identity documents, for their identification at the polling station before casting their votes.
• The eleven specified photo identity documents include passport, driving license, passbook with photograph issued by the bank or post office, pan card, government service identity cards with photographs, smart cards issued by Registrar General of India under National Population Register, MNREGA Job Card, Health Insurance Smart Card, pension document with photograph, official identity cards issued to Ministers and the Aadhaar card.
• The overseas voters will have to produce their original passport only for identification.
• Previously, the Commission had allowed photo voter slip as a document for identification. However, there have been representations against its use as a stand-alone identification document on the grounds of misuse, as the voter slips are printed and distributed very close to poll day and their design does not incorporate any security feature.
• The photo voter slip was started as an alternative document, as the coverage of the voter identity card was not complete in earlier years. However, now, more than 99 per cent electors possess voter ID and more than 99 per cent adults have been issued Aadhaar Cards.
Over 7 lakh first-time voters to cast their vote in 2019 Lok Sabha Polls in Assam
• Over seven lakh voters would be casting their vote for the first time in Assam in the upcoming General Elections, which will be held in three phases in the state.
• According to Chief Electoral Officer Mukesh Sahu, out of the total 2, 17,60,604 voters in the state, 7,06,489 are in the 18-19 years category, making them first time voters.
• Further, he said that there could be some voters in the other age brackets who have enrolled themselves for the first time, thus making them also first time voters.
• The state has the highest number of voters in 20-29 years category, with over 57 lakh voters coming in this age bracket. Assam has 14 Lok Sabha seats.
EC appoints three special observers for Jammu and Kashmir
• The Election Commission of India has formed a three-member committee to assess the situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir before it takes a decision about holding the assembly elections in the troubled state.
• The three members of the committee include two retired IAS officers Noor Mohammed and Vinod Zutshi and a retired IPS officer, A.S. Gill.
• The Commission will regularly monitor the situation in the state on a real-time basis and the decision of holding assembly elections will be taken soon.
EC asks political parties not to display photographs of defence personnel
• The Election Commission has asked political parties to advise their candidates and leaders to not display photographs of defence personnel in advertisements as a part of their election campaign. The poll panel has written to the Presidents of all parties in regard of the same.
• In its letter, the Commission said, it has been brought to the notice that some parties are using the photographs of defence personnel as a part of their political campaign.
• The commission cited its 2013 advisory in which it had said that the armed forces are apolitical and natural stakeholders in a modern democracy.
• It stressed that it is necessary that parties and their leaders exercise great caution while making any reference to armed forces.