The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced that Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh would be held on November 9 and counting of votes would be held on December 18. Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti, accompanied by Election Commissioners Om Prakash Rawat and Sunil Arora, said electronic voting machines (EVMs) with voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) would be used for the polls.
While speculations were rife that the ECI may also announce dates for Gujarat Assembly polls, Jyoti said the elections to the western State would be held later. "Gujarat poll schedules are not announced right now due to the existing rules on time limit [46 days] for holding elections, but it would take place before December 18, to ensure that Himachal Pradesh election results do not impact the Gujarat elections," he said.
An estimated 49,05,000 people, including over 20,000 new voters, will exercise their franchise in 7,521 polling stations in Himachal Pradesh. Voter assistance booths would be set up and 200 wheel chairs have been arranged by the State government. There would be 136 women managed poll stations this time, he said.
The ceiling on election expenditure a candidate is Rs 25,00,000. The ECI, for the first time, would use RONet, an integrated application, for conducting the elections. It was first implemented on a pilot basis in the Ludhiana Assembly election in February last.
Service voters would be given the option of getting one-way online voting system, wherein they would be sent the encrypted ballot paper and its decryption key separately. They should send the filled ballot through post, Joti said.
The term of the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly comes to an end on January 7, 2018. While the BJP is yet to announce its chief ministerial candidate, the Congress has announced Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as its nominee.