How do you plan a party for 900 million people? With a very big, colorful to-do list

Way better than colored post-its.
Way better than colored post-its.
Image: Public domain image courtesy of Election Commission of India
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In a country that has some notorious issues with forward planning, one could see how the great festival of democracy could easily turn into an electoral Fyre Festival.

The Indian election, the world’s biggest, involves a staff of 11 million, over a million booths, and up to 900 million voters. Such a big production requires a masterplan, and India’s election commission sure has one. It is a few feet long and hangs in full display in its Delhi headquarters, where officers are busy putting the last touches on the general election that starts tomorrow.

The plan is a detailed, color-coded breakdown of all the steps required to roll out the massive election in as little as six months. It is essentially the mother of all to-do lists, an awe-inspiring work of planning visualization.

The list has145 entries, from broad to very specific. Whether it’s preparing budgets and databases, selecting polling locations, getting stationery, finding observers places to stay, or packing materials for each polling booth, the masterplan is on it.

Next to each entry is a colored square indicating the type of job and who is responsible for it—whether it is a police matter, for instance, or something to do with the polls, or the voting machines.

The list also breaks down how many days before the election work on each task should start and end, and how many days it’s meant to last. Many duties are are meant to get done in just one or a couple of days, while some—for instance keeping the commission’s website updated—continue for months.

And there is the one task that goes on for over six months (181 days total), starting half a year before the election and going all the way to the tallying of the votes: Complaint management.

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Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.