The Chief Election Commissioner recently underscored the importance of enabling postal voting for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). The Election Commission has proposed the implementation of Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots (ETPBs) specifically designed for NRIs. This proposal is currently awaiting approval from the government.
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Dimensions of the Article:
- Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System
- Proposal Put Forward by the EC Related to ETPB for NRIs
- Challenges Related to ETPB for NRIs
Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System
Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) is a voting system designed to enable remote voting for individuals who are unable to physically vote at a polling station. The system combines electronic transmission and postal services to facilitate the electronic delivery and return of ballots. Here are some key features of the ETPBS:
- Service Voters: The ETPBS is primarily used for service voters, who are members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, and state police forces, as well as government employees posted outside their constituencies.
- Electronic Transmission: Registered service voters receive their postal ballots electronically through the ETPBS. They can download the electronic ballot along with a declaration form and covers.
- Ballot Registration: Once the service voter has received the ETPB, they can register their vote on the ballot as per their preference.
- Return of Ballot: After registering their vote, the service voter is required to send the completed ballot, along with the attested declaration form, to the returning officer of their constituency via ordinary mail.
- Attested Declaration Form: The declaration form included in the postal ballot needs to be signed by the voter in the presence of an appointed senior officer who will then attest it.
- Legal Amendment: The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended in 2016 to allow service voters to use the ETPBS for casting their votes.
Proposal Put Forward by the EC Related to ETPB for NRIs
The Election Commission (EC) has put forward a proposal related to Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots (ETPB) for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). Here are the key points of the proposal:
- Amendment to the Representation of the People Act: In 2015, the EC proposed an amendment to Section 60 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to extend the ETPB facility to overseas electors, including NRIs.
- Technical and Administrative Readiness: In 2020, the EC informed the law ministry that it is technically and administratively prepared to implement the proposal.
- Modified ETPBS for NRIs: The EC suggests modifications to the ETPBS to accommodate NRIs. This includes allowing NRIs to download their ballot papers online and return them by post or courier within a specified timeframe.
- Appointment of Proxy Voters: The EC proposes that NRIs should be allowed to appoint a proxy voter in India who can cast their vote on their behalf. The proxy voter would verify the NRI’s identity and obtain their consent.
- Designated Polling Stations: The EC suggests the establishment of designated polling stations at Indian missions abroad, where NRIs can choose to vote using electronic voting machines (EVMs) or paper ballots.
- Pending Approval: The proposal is currently pending with the law ministry. Opposition to the proposal has been raised, citing concerns about the security and authenticity of postal ballots.
Challenges Related to ETPB for NRIs
There are several challenges related to implementing Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots (ETPB) for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). These challenges include:
- Eligibility Determination: Determining the eligibility of NRIs to participate in remote voting can be complex. Establishing accurate mechanisms to verify their identity, residency status, and eligibility is crucial to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
- Timely Return of Ballots: The ETPBS requires NRIs to send their postal ballots within a specified time frame after receiving them electronically. However, postal delays or logistical issues in some countries may hinder the timely return of the ballots, potentially resulting in disenfranchisement of some voters.
- Security Risks: The transmission of sensitive electoral data through electronic means in the ETPBS raises concerns about hacking, tampering, or interception by malicious actors. Safeguarding the security and integrity of the system is of utmost importance.
- Secrecy of the Vote: The use of postal ballots may not ensure the secrecy of the vote, as it can be subject to scrutiny or coercion by others. Maintaining voter privacy is a critical aspect of any electoral process.
- Legal Amendments: Implementing the ETPBS for NRIs would require amending the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and 1951, as well as the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, to accommodate the voting rights of overseas electors.
- Technical Infrastructure and Coordination: The successful implementation of the ETPBS requires robust technical infrastructure and effective coordination among various stakeholders, including the Election Commission, the Ministry of External Affairs, the postal department, and the embassies.
-Source: The Hindu