‘Goa officials slow in casting postal ballots’

Panaji, Feb 17 (IANS) Goa’s voters may have been prolific and equalled a past voting percentage record in the recently concluded assembly poll, but its officials appear to lack the same enthusiasm, especially when it comes to casting their postal ballots, poll data shows.

Data compiled by poll authorities in the state reveals that out of the 17,590 elibile to do so, only around 40 per cent have actually cast their ballots — although political parties, including the Aam Aadmi Party, has alleged that government servants are being coerced by political parties into casting votes in their favour.

“Only around 6,000 plus postal ballots have been received by us. They have until 8 a.m. on March 11, the morning of the counting exercise to send us their postal ballots,” an official at the poll office in Goa told IANS on Thursday.

The 17,590 government officials and police personnel oversaw the arrangements for voting on February 4, when nearly 83 per cent of eligible voters exercised their franchise.

Political parties in the state have expressed concern at the slow pace at which government employees were exercising their franchise.

“Is it a case, that only these people (government servants) cannot cast their ballot in reasonable time? Other people have to give up everything and give vote at a particular time (on poll day),” AAP’s Goa convenor Elvis Gomes told IANS on Thursday, demanding that postal ballots be wound up by Friday.

“It is in the open that pressure is exerted on the voters and there are instances when money is paid to vote in favour of a particular candidate,” he also said.

According to Chief Electoral Officer Kunal (the official does not use his surname) government servants would be severely punished if they demand bribes for votes from political parties.

“We have conveyed to political party representatives about legal provisions on offering bribes to voters and they should convey it clearly to all candidates,” Kunal said.

“Same way any government servant demanding bribe for voting will be punished as well as disciplinary proceedings shall be initiated. Strong action will be taken,” he added.