No postal ballot pilot planned for NRI outside the Gulf: Election Commission
Clarifying its position on the introduction of postal ballots in non-Gulf countries, the Election Commission of India said it has made no such proposal.
In its response to a query from a member of Parliament, dated December 23, the commission has unequivocally denied reports that postal voting facilities will be extended first to selected non-Gulf countries.
“At first, it was clear that the commission has not made any pilot proposals,” the EC said in its response, a copy of which has been seen by the Hindustan Times. “The current proposal to extend the ETPBS voting option in favor of overseas voters is an extension of the commission’s ongoing efforts to facilitate voting for overseas voters, despite the amendment in the Act in 2011, which has not yet materialized in the true sense. “
Also read: Government for wider consultations before allowing postal voting for NRI
The commission added that their logistics are being developed in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The proposal, which has yet to be approved by the Ministry of Justice, will be implemented worldwide, it will not be launched selectively,” said a person familiar with the matter.
The EC wrote to the Ministry of Law on November 27 to expedite the amendment of the People’s Representation Law of 1951, to extend the postal voting facility to voters abroad. Of the 12.6 million Indians residing abroad, only just over 100,000 are registered as voters with the Election Commission of India, people familiar with the matter said. According to official estimates, at least 60-65% of the 12.6 million people residing abroad are likely to be eligible to vote in the Indian elections.
He has proposed that voting be done through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS), which was tested in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for service voters.
“You have to understand how ETPBS works,” said a person familiar with the matter. “A designated officer is appointed in the regiment of the service voter to whom ballots are mailed electronically. The officer gives this to the voter and then sends the ballot to the Return Officer (RO). ”
The commission, in its letter to the Ministry of Legal Affairs, similarly proposed the appointment of an official appointed by the diplomatic or consular representative of India. However, the modalities of how the vote-by-mail process will be conducted have not yet been finalized. The commission has called for the facility to be rolled out before next year’s elections in the states of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry.
The proposed amendment faced a backlash from political parties who claimed they had not been consulted in the process. CPI (M) Secretary General Sitaram Yechury had said the amendment could be open to large-scale manipulation, with the ballots being sold for profit.
Countering Yechury’s claim that political parties had not been consulted, the commission wrote on December 19 to a veteran political leader, stating that the postal voting system was only an “extension of the Commission’s continued efforts to facilitate the voting of foreign voters “.
The commission added that detailed consultations were held in 2015 with various stakeholders, including political parties, in which the EC established a committee to investigate the matter.