After voting, just who counts your ballots?

Vote counting is a complex operation that calls for both speed and accuracy in a country like India where each constituency may have thousands of voters.

Where are the Votes counted?

  • All votes should ideally be counted in the same place inside the constituency.
  • The number of counting centres that are appointed during general elections, when seats are greater and there are more Assembly constituencies, will depend on how many votes need to be counted.
  • The Returning Officer (RO) selects the site(s) for voting, with several centres in assembly segments being supervised by the Assistant Returning Officers (ARO).
  • All votes should ideally be counted in one large hall with numerous tables at counting centres.
  • However, with approval from the Election Commission, more rooms may be added if the RO believes there is a risk of overpopulation (EC).

Returning Officer: Role

  • The RO is appointed for each constituency by the Election Commission.
  • The RO is the highest authority in the district during the election and has a broad range of authorities to conduct elections in a peaceful and impartial manner.
  • The following responsibilities of the RO pertain to the counting of votes: designating the counting centres and obtaining Commission approval well in advance; notifying the candidates of the location, date, and time of the counting of votes; hiring and training the counting staff; and counting the votes and announcing the outcome.
  • The results are announced after many steps of counting that are not conducted by the ROs themselves.
  • When it comes to election vote counting, they are the last arbiter.


  • Each counting table in a counting room will tally a specific number of postal ballots or electronic voting machines on a round-by-round basis.
  • A counting supervisor and up to two assistants perform the actual counting at each table.
  • They should be officers who have been gazetted, and the RO appoints them.
  • They acquire specialised training for the duties they are required to do.
  • For instance, the training for individuals who count postal ballots differs from that given for those who count votes from electronic voting machines.

Observers in the counting process

  • At each counting room, the EC assigns observers who are tasked with keeping a record of events and submitting a report.
  • They are typically GoI workers who have the responsibility of monitoring the entire operation of the electoral system.
  • The counting room is open to all candidates who appeared on the ballot as well as their representatives.
  • Each party and candidate sends a counting agent to make sure the votes are counted fairly and in accordance with the rules, and to file any complaints that may arise.
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