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17-Year-Olds Can Pre-Register For Voter Lists

Context

The Election Commission of India recently announced that those over the age of 17 can now apply in advance to be enrolled in the voters’ list, rather than waiting until they turn 18 on January 1 of each year.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

Mains Question

The role of the Election Commission of India in ensuring the purity of the country’s elected legislative bodies has instilled a high level of trust in the minds of Indian citizens. Examine critically. (150 Words)


Who has the right to vote in India?

  • Part XV (Article 324-329) of the Indian Constitution contains provisions to ensure free and fair elections in India, as well as the authority of the Indian Parliament to regulate the electoral process.
  • In this regard, the Representation of the People Act (RPA) of 1950 was passed by Parliament (and the Representation of the People Act, 1951).
  • The 1950 Act establishes the allocation of seats and the delimitation of constituencies for elections, as well as the qualifications of voters and the preparation of electoral rolls.
  • The 1951 Act governs how elections and by-elections are held.
  • It governs the conduct of elections, as well as election-related offences and disputes, as well as the registration of political parties and the qualifications and disqualifications for membership in the Houses.
  • Persons eligible to vote in an election are those who have registered as voters in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Constitution and the Representation of the People Act (RPA) of 1950.
  • According to Article 326 of the Indian Constitution, all Indian citizens over the age of 18 who have registered to vote are eligible to vote.
  • Eligible voters must register in the constituency where they live, after which they will be issued photo election identification cards.

Background

  • The government issued four notifications to implement the electoral reforms enacted by the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021. (passed by the Parliament in late 2021).
  • The notification resulted in the following changes:
    • Voluntary Linking of Voter ID with Aadhaar The notification specified April 1, 2023 as the date by which every person whose name appears on the electoral rolls must provide his Aadhaar number.
    • To make the registration process easier for first-time voters, it established four qualifying dates per year — January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1 — for those over the age of 18.
    • Make voting by special procedure gender neutral The notification changed the word “wife” to “spouse” so that a female Army officer’s husband could be enrolled as a service voter.
    • Greater authority for the Election Commission It empowered the EC to requisition premises for any purpose related to elections.

In addition:

  • First-time voters will soon be able to apply for inclusion on the voter list even before reaching the voting age of 18.
  • New voters who turn 18 on April 1, July 1, or October 1 of any given year, rather than just January 1, will be eligible to register to vote.
    • However, ECI has announced that all 17-year-olds who will turn 18 on each of the four qualifying dates can submit their claims ahead of time.
    • They may begin applying as of the date of the draught publication of electoral rolls.
    • For example, the special summary revision with January 1, 2023 as the qualifying date has already been ordered.
    • As a result, under the new model, 17-year-olds can begin applying for inclusion in rolls on November 9, 2022, the date of draught roll publication.

What was the previous policy on registration?

  • Previously, electoral rolls were revised with reference to January 1st.
    • The Representation of the People Act only allowed those over the age of 18 to register to vote once.
    • Only those who have reached the age of 18 on or before January 1 of that year are eligible to be added to the voter list.
    • Because there is only one cut-off date, a person turning 18 on January 2 cannot be registered and must wait until the following year.
  • Enrollment of first-time voters will now be permitted four times per year. Section 20(6) of the RP Act was amended to accomplish this.

 

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