May 23, 2019 / 9:07 AM / 5 months ago

Roads, boats and elephants: How India mobilised a million polling stations

(Reuters) - India’s seven-phase general election, the world’s largest democratic exercise, has come to an end after 39 days.

FILE PHOTO: Members of election staff carry Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines after collecting them from a distribution centre at an indoor stadium ahead of the seventh and last phase of general election, in Kolkata, India, May 18, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo

Voting began on April 11 and took place at about a million polling stations across the country, from far-flung corners of the Himalayas to the crocodile-infested mangrove swamps of the Andaman Islands. Voting ended on Sunday.

Click tmsnrt.rs/2ErGqYt for an interactive Reuters graphic that takes a closer look at the voting apparatus, the density of polling stations and the arduous terrain government officials had to cover.

Guidelines from the Election Commission of India (ECI) state that no voter should be more than 2 km (1.24 miles) from a polling station.

To facilitate this, nearly 11 million government officials and members of the security forces were deployed to ensure that more than 900 million eligible voters could cast their ballots.

Carrying electronic voting machines and systems to verify the ballots cast, officials ventured through forests, up and down steep, rocky cliffs and across sandbars, often travelling for days at a time.

With a backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayas and a vibrant blue sky, the village of Tashigang in the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh state was the highest polling station in the world, according to the ECI.

Forty-nine voters were registered at the station which is at an altitude of 4,650 m (15,256 feet). The election team flew in on helicopters.

Deep in the Gir wildlife sanctuary of Gujarat, home to some 600 of the last Asiatic lions, a special polling station was set up for one priest at a Shiva temple.

Election official Sourabh Pardhi said the Election Commission had worked hard to ensure everyone got the chance to vote.

“We want to make sure that no voter is left behind,” he told the ANI news agency.

Graphic by Marco Hernandez and Manas Sharma; Writing by Simon Scarr and Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel

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