Additional steps being taken to curb unusual turnouts: CEC

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Kolkata, April 14 (IANS) Ahead of the second phase of the West Bengal assembly polls, the Election Commission is taking additional measures to prevent the possibility of unusual voter turnout, Chief Election Commissioner Naseem Zaidi said on Thursday.

“The voter turnout at 5 p.m. and closing time at 6 p.m. will be obtained through mobile SMS-based information system. The number of electors standing in the queue at the time of closing of polls will be compiled by returning officer so the possibility of any unusual increase in voter turnout is ruled out,” he said here.

To ensure further transparency and accountability in those polling stations where voting continues beyond polling hours due to the presence of electors in the queue, the presiding officers have been given specific instructions.

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“They have been directed to submit a statement capturing the full information on votes polled by the electors present at the polling station at the time fixed for close of polls, and had actually voted till the actual closing of the polls.

“This statement will be signed by the presiding officer and the polling agents present at the booth and will be submitted to the authorities,” he said.

Zaidi informed the final publication of electoral rolls for 51 enclaves which were transferred from Bangladesh have been completed on April 11.

“Now these citizens will be able to cast their votes on May 5,” he said.

The full bench of the Election Commission of India held day-long meetings with police and administration officials and also met delegations from various political parties ahead of the next phase of the state assembly polls scheduled for April 17.

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Amid the ongoing controversy over high voter turnouts in the first phase (April 4 and April 11), the poll panel had earlier claimed Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) initiatives have led to “huge” voters’ turnouts in first phase of assembly polls in both Bengal and Assam.

For the part one of the first phase of polls on April 4 involving 18 segments (including 13 in Left-Wing Extremism areas), the poll watchdog declared a final turnout figure of 84.22 percent on April 6.

A shortwhile after the scheduled time for close – 6 p.m. – on April 4, the panel had given a tentative figure of 80.92 percent.

Opposition parties had questioned the increase in the turnout, and claimed the final figures were adulterated.

Former state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya approached the Commission recently over the high percentages saying the spike in figures needs to be investigated.

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