COVID positive citizens to get time to vote

Ordinance proposed to allow them to vote from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on polling day

Voters for the upcoming civic body elections who test positive for COVID-19 or go into quarantine on election day or in the two days preceding it will be allowed to vote in the last hour of polling.

The Cabinet on Wednesday decided to recommend Governor Arif Mohammed Khan to promulgate an ordinance for making suitable amendments in the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act and the Kerala Municipality Act to enable such voters to safely cast their votes from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the day of voting. (Polling is from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

The local body elections to 1,199 local bodies in the State are planned in three phases in December.

It was earlier decided to issue postal ballots for COVID-19 patients and quarantined persons. However, voters have to apply for postal ballots three days before the elections. Also, the electoral rolls marked with the postal votes have to be certified two days before the day of voting. This condition would, in effect, deny voters who test positive or go into quarantine in the days immediately preceding the elections their democratic right to cast their votes.

The State government decided to take the ordinance route to overcome this hurdle. Whether the voters who fall into the two categories would be issued PPE kits and allowed to visit the polling booths is yet to be finalised. The Cabinet has also decided to direct the Health Department to prepare the necessary guideline and hand it over to the Local Self Government Department. The Health Department will also prepare the guidelines for ensuring the safety of the polling officials and agents in view of the COVID-19 scenario. The Health Department had earlier informed the Commission that it could arrange PPE kits for COVID positive and quarantined voters.

The Commission would issue orders on this matter once the Ordinance is promulgated and the government frames the rules, State Election Commissioner V. Bhaskaran said.

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