5.1 Setting up administrative machinery : For preparing for the election, the Election Commission has to make all arrangements for setting up the administrative machinery in the Divisional, District and Thana Headquarters and to undertake activities, namely, delimitation of constituencies, preparation of electoral rolls and its updating, appointment of Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers, setting up of polling stations, appointment of polling personnel, publication of notification specifying the different stages of election which are discussed in the following paragraphs.
5.2 Delimitation of Constituencies (Parliament):
According to the provisions of section 8 of the Delimitation of Constituencies Ordinance, 1976, the Election Commission delimited the territorial constituencies and published the list of Constituencies on 30th May, 1995. Since the law provides that delimitation of territorial constituencies is to be made upon the completion of each census for the purpose of general election to Parliament to be held following of each census, unless otherwise directed by the Commission for reasons to be recorded in writing, the delimitation of 300 constituencies published on 30th May, 1995 stands valid for use in the general election of Parliament held subsequently until the next census.
5.3 Preparation of electoral rolls:
The electoral rolls prepared and published on 26th October, 2000 were updated in accordance with the provisions of the relevant law for use in the Parliament election held on 1st October, 2001 and the by-elections held subsequently.
5.4 Appointment of Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers:
For the purpose of election of a Member of a Constituency, the Commission appoints a Returning Officer for each constituency. A person may also be appointed as Returning Officer for two or more constituencies. The Commission may appoint as many Assistant Returning Officers as may be necessary. Traditionally DCs (Deputy Commissioner) and T/UNOs (Thana/Upzila Nirbahi Officer) are appointed as ROs (Returning Officer) and AROs (Assistant Returning Officer) respectively. It may be said that according to law a person may not be appointed as Assistant Returning Officer for more than one constituency.
It is the duty of a Returning Officer to do all such acts and things as may be necessary for effectively conducting an election in accordance with the laws and the rules. Subject to the superintendence, direction and control of the Commission, the Returning Officer supervises all works within his jurisdiction in the district in connection with the conduct of election and also performs such other duties as may be entrusted to him by the Commission.
5.5 Setting up of Polling Stations :
The Returning Officer, before such time as the Commission may fix, submits to the Commission a list of Polling stations, needed to be provided in a constituency. The Commission may make such alterations in the said list of polling stations as it may consider necessary and is required, at least fifteen days before the polling day, to publish in the official Gazette the final list of Polling stations specifying the area the electors will be entitled to vote at each polling station.
The Polling station must be set up in a public building with facilities for secret casting of votes for an average of 2500 voters and under no circumstances it should be housed in a place within the influence of any candidate or political party. Peace and order inside the polling station is a necessary prerequisite for fair election. Easy dispatch of election materials to the polling station, arrangement for their safe and proper storage, easy movement of the polling personnel, convenience of voters, sufficient accommodation, etc. also determine the selection of a polling station. A Polling station has usually five booths. There were approximately 30,000 Polling Stations during the last October 2001 elections .
5.6 Appointment of Presiding Officer, Assistant Presiding Officer and Polling Officer :
The Returning Officer, by a notice in writing, requires all heads of Offices, institutions and establishments, whether Government or non-government, in the district, to provide him with a list of their officers and employees of such grade as he may specify for the preparation of a Panel of Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers from among them. After preparation of the panel, the Returning Officer sends a copy thereof to the heads of all the offices, institutions and establishments whose officers and employees are included in the Panel with the request to place the services of these officers and employees at the disposal of the Commission for use for election purposes and also forwards a copy of the Panel to the Commission.
The Returning Officer appoints from the Panel for each polling station a Presiding Officer and such number of Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officers to assist the Presiding Officers as the Returning Officer may consider necessary. The Election Commission directs the Returning Officer to select such honest, impartial and courageous officers and employees as polling personnel who can tackle odd situations and are capable of maintaining peace and order at the polling stations.
The Presiding Officer conducts the poll in accordance with laws and rules and is responsible for maintaining order at the polling station and also reports to the Returning Officer any fact or incident which may, in his opinion, affect the fairness of poll.
5.7 Training of Polling Personnel :
Since holding of a free, fair and impartial election depends to a great extent on the efficiency of the polling officials, the Election Commission conducts training to make polling officials conversant with the electoral laws and regulations, need for their total neutrality and effective enforcement of laws . The Electoral Training Institute has been set up to train polling officials, Political workers, media etc. especially on election related laws and allied issues. Training courses are also conducted at divisional, district and thana/upzila levels. Moreover, the training institute provides facilities for training regarding voting system. prohibited acts during the elections, election offences concerning candidates, election agents, polling agents, political activists and voters and also procedures to be followed by the members of law enforcing agencies during election. During the last October 2001 general elections a massive training programme was mounted to train roughly 1.54 million polling personnel.
5.8 Supply of Electoral Roll (Parliament) :
The Election Commission provides the Returning Officer for each Constituency with copies of electoral rolls for the constituency.
The Returning Officer provides the Presiding Officer of each polling station with copies of electoral rolls containing the names of the electors entitled to vote at that polling station.
5.9 Calling upon the electors to elect a member from each constituency and issue of election programme (Parliament):
For the purpose of holding election for constituting Parliament, the Commission holds dialogue with the political parties for the election schedule and by notification in the official Gazette, calls upon the electors to elect a member from each constituency and specifies, in relation to each constituency, the following in the notification :
- a day on or before which the nomination of candidates may be filed;
- a day or days for the scrutiny of nomination papers.
- a day on or before which candidature may be withdrawn.
- a day, at least fifteen days after the withdrawal day, for the taking of poll.
5.10 Disposal of Appeal Against the order of Rejection of Nomination Paper:
After the date fixed for scrutiny is over, the Commission has to dispose of all appeals filed against the orders of rejection of nomination papers and pass necessary orders as quickly as possible before the time fixed for withdrawal of candidature. There is no provision in the law for appeal against acceptance of nomination.
5.11 Allocation of Symbols to the Candidates Nominated by Political Parties:
Allocation of symbols to the candidates nominated by the political parties is an important as well as a sensitive task for the Election Commission. Article 20 of the Representation of the People Order, 1972 provides that in case there are more contesting candidates than one in respect of any constituency, the Returning Officer is required to allocate, subject to any direction of the Election Commission, one of the prescribed symbols to each contesting candidate. In order that the candidates of one political party can use a common symbol in more than one constituency, the Election Commission invites the political parties to indicate their choice.
After hearing the representatives of the political parties at a meeting arranged by the Election Commission fixed for the purpose and considering the past practices, the Election Commission allocates the symbols to the political parties from the list of symbols as mentioned in rule 9(1) of the conduct of Election Rules, 1972. On this basis the candidates nominated by the political parties can use a common symbol. Following the decision of the Election Commission, the Returning Officer allocates the elections symbols to the candidates nominated by the Political parties. Other symbols as mentioned in rule 9(1) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1972 are allocated by the Returning Officers to the independent candidates having regard to any preference indicated by the candidates.
5.12 Procurement and distribution of Election Materials :
The task of printing and procurement, of election materials and their distribution to 30,000 polling stations is a colossal one, entailing close attention of the Election Commission. It is made sure that these reach the Polling Stations at least the day before the polling so that polling can start on time at 00800 hours in the morning. During the October 2001 national election, no case of late arrival of election materials was reported from any polling station of the country.