Two categories of votes are counted to arrive at the final result of General Elections 2019, first is Votes polled in EVM by General voters from over 91.1 Crores electors at Polling Stations and second category is Postal Ballots returned from over18 Lakh Service voters and also from the polling personnel deployed for the poll duties, outside their Parliament Constituency in case of single elections and all polling personnel in case of simultaneous elections as was the case recently when besides the election to 17th Lok Sabha, the Assembly elections for four states namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim to Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha also went for poll.
The provisional voter turnout data is displayed as percentage figure on Election Commission of India (ECI) Web site and Voter Helpline Mobile App on the poll day as uploaded by the Returning Officer(RO)/Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) based on the approximate percentage turnout figures obtained from Sector magistrates who in-turn get it periodically over phone/ in person from about 10 Presiding officers. After scrutiny of documents by the RO, provisional number of General voters’ turnout is compiled and uploaded on the ECI website based on the Polling Station wise tentative voter turnout data reported by the Presiding Officers, with male/female voter breakup, added together to get the PC wise provisional voter turnout. All these figures are provisional, based on estimates which are subject to change as is made clear from the disclaimer on the website that “the data is estimated and subject to change”. This provisional voter turnout data is made available by ROs on regular intervals, which is collated by Chief Electoral Officers and ECI on the web site for wider dissemination and to ensure transparency in information dissemination.
At the time of counting, postal ballots received up to 8 AM on Counting day are first pre-counted and valid Postal ballots are then taken up for after actual counting for both of the categories a. the Service voters and b. the polling personnel deployed for the poll duties. The Postal ballot count is added to the EVM General voters’ count to give the final votes polled in every PC and the votes secured candidate wise and the winning candidate is given return certificate in form 21E by the Returning Officers.
Based on both the EVM votes and Postal Ballots counted, the Returning Officer prepares Form 21E and Index Card in which the breakup of voter turnout, including tendered votes for the Constituency, is tallied to get the final voter turnout for each Constituency. Form 21E is the return of election as specified under rule 64 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, for which the sole authority is the Returning Officer concerned. Also, INDEX CARD in use since last over five decades, is prepared by the Returning officer to furnish the voting data (including postal ballot data), polled and counted, after the declaration of the Result, which becomes the final authenticated data for all purposes including analysis and research. For General Elections 2019, Commission has already directed all the Returning Officers on 26th March 2019 to send the INDEX CARDS within 15 days of the declaration of the Result.
In earlier elections, it used to take months to collect such authenticated election data from all the ROs. Even in 2014, it took between 2 to 3 months after the declaration of results to collect and collate such data in authenticated form. Due to the innovative IT initiatives taken by the Commission this time, the final data on votes counted has been made available within a few days of declaration of results. The reconciliation of voters’ data for all PCs have been completed in all states and the Index Forms of all 542 PCs are expected to reach ECI from Returning Officers shortly, which after compilation, shall be immediately be made Public by the Election Commission.
As made out clear in above paras, the provisional voter turnout data reported on ECI Website is only the tentative number of voters and not the final nos. therefore it is incorrect inference to find Ghost voters when there are none.