According to law, casting of votes and counting of votes are the pivotal and final tasks in the whole process of the election, though the consolidation of results and declaration of the names of returned candidates are the subsequent legal requirements.
9.1 Before Poll : The Returning Officer provides each Presiding Officer with necessary ballot boxes of such material and design as are approved by the Commission. Not more than one ballot box is used at a time for the purpose of the poll at any polling booth.
9.2 Poll : At least half an hour before the time fixed for the commencement of the poll, the Presiding Officer is required to ensure that every ballot box to be used is empty, show the empty ballot box to the contesting candidates and their election agents and polling agents whoever may be present, close and seal the ballot box and place the ballot box so as to be conveniently accessible to the elector -- visible to all present in the booth -- officials and election or polling agents as may be present. Every elector will mark his ballot paper in secret before the same is folded and inserted in the ballot box by the elector himself.
The Presiding Officer regulates the number of electors to be admitted to the polling station at a time and excludes from the polling station all other persons except those connected with the polling.
The Presiding Officer is responsible for keeping order at the polling station so that an elector can exercise his free will to cast his vote at the polling station.
Where an elector presents himself at the polling station to vote, the Presiding Officer shall, after satisfying himself about his identity, issue to him a ballot paper after giving him a personal mark made with indelible ink on his thumb or any other finger of either hand, placing a mark on the electoral roll against the number and name of the elector to indicate that a ballot paper has been issued to him and recording the elector's number and procuring signature of the elector on the counter foils of electoral roll and ballot paper respectively .
The elector, on receiving the ballot paper, shall forthwith proceed to the place reserved for marking the ballot paper, put the prescribed mark on the ballot paper at any place within the space containing the name and symbol of the contesting candidate for whom he wishes to vote and after he has so marked, fold the ballot paper and insert it in the ballot box. He has to do the whole thing at the quickest speed.
If a person representing himself to be an elector applies for a ballot paper when another person has already represented himself to be that elector and has voted under the name of the person so applying, he shall be entitled to receive a ballot paper which is called a tendered ballot paper. The Presiding Officer maintains separate accounts of tendered and challenged votes and also spoilt ballot papers as per law.
The polling time is generally 0800-1600hrs local time. No person is allowed entry into the polling station enclosure after 1600hrs.
9.3 Count of Votes : Immediately after the close of the poll with the casting of vote by the last voter of the day, the Presiding Officer, in the presence of such of the contesting candidates, election agents, polling agents and election observers as may be present, proceeds with the count of votes.
The Presiding Officer gives such of the contesting candidates, election agents and polling agents as may be present, reasonable facility of observing the count and gives them such information with respect thereto as can be given consistent with the orderly conduct of the count and the discharge of his duties in connection therewith.
Under the law no person other than the Presiding Officer, the Polling Officer, any other person on duty in connection with the poll, the contesting candidates, their election agents and polling agents are to be present at the count. However, authorized observers are allowed by the Election Commission to observe the count as a special dispensation. The Presiding Officer shall open the used ballot box or ballot boxes and count the entire lot of ballot papers taken out there from in presence of these persons.
The valid ballot papers cast in favor of each contesting candidate are preserved in separate packets. The Presiding Officer, immediately after the count, prepares a statement of the count and if so requested by any candidate or election agent or polling agent present, gives him a certified copy of the statement of the count and the ballot paper account.
The Presiding Officer puts in good order all records of the poll and sends them to the Returning officer immediately.
The Returning Officer is required to give the contesting candidates and their election agents a notice in writing of the day, time and place for the consolidation of the results and, in the presence of such of the contesting candidates and election agents as may be present, consolidate in the prescribed manner the results of the count furnished by the Presiding Officer, including therein, the postal ballots received by him before the time aforesaid.
9.4 Recount : The Returning Officer shall recount the valid ballot papers in respect of any polling station if the count by the Presiding Officer is challenged in writing by a contesting candidate or his election agent and the Returning Officer is satisfied about the reasonableness of the challenge or he is directed so to do by the Commission.
Where, after consolidation of the results or the count, it is found that there is equality of votes between two or more contesting candidates and the addition of one vote for one such candidate would entitle him to be declared elected, the Returning Officer shall forthwith draw a lot in respect of such candidates and the candidate on whom the lot falls shall be deemed to have received the highest number of votes entitling him to be declared elected. The lot shall be drawn in the presence of such of the contesting candidates and their election agents as may be present.
The Returning Officer shall, after obtaining the result of the count or of the draw of the lot declare by public notice the contesting candidate who has or is deemed to have received the highest number of votes to be elected. The Commission is required as per law to publish in the official gazette the name of the returned candidate.
The Returning Officer shall supply duly attested copies of the consolidated statement and the return of election to such of the candidates and their election agents as may desire to have them.