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Postal Ballots Meaning and Uses

Postal Ballots News

Postal Ballots (PB) are the first to be counted, with EVMs following a minimum of half an hour after the counting of PBs begins says Election Commission’s rules.

Hence, early trends that are visible after counting begins are often a reflection of the votes logged through PBs.


What are Postal Ballots?

Postal Ballot is a facility through which a voter can cast his/her vote remotely by recording preference on an official ballot paper and sending it back to the returning officer before counting.

This facility is available to only to a restricted set of voters.


Who can Use Postal Ballot in India

Members of the armed forces such as the Army, Navy and Air Force, members of the armed police force of a state (serving outside the state), government employees posted outside India and their spouses are entitled to vote only by post.

Voters under preventive detention have facility to vote only by post.

Special voters such as the President of India, Vice President, Governors, Union Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House and government officers on poll duty can avail this facility.

  • However, they have to apply through a prescribed form to avail this facility.

Absentee voters, such as railway employees posted outside the state can exercise their vote through PBs.

  • These absentee voters are unable to physically cast their vote due to their service conditions.

The Election Commission (EC) has introduced the facility of PBs for senior citizens, people with disabilities (PwD) and those under Covid-19 quarantine.

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Procedure of Postal Ballot Voting

The Returning Officer (RO) must print ballot papers within 24 hours of the last date of nomination withdrawal and dispatch them within a day.

This is done to ensure that voters have enough time to receive the ballots, cast their vote and return the ballots to the RO on time.

The voters have to mark their preference in such a way that the intention of voting for a particular candidate is clear beyond any reasonable doubt.

  • In case of unclear or improper marking, the PB can get rejected.

The envelope containing postal ballot must also include a declaration by the voter in Form 13-A which must be appropriately filled for the vote to count with attestation from an official upholding the eligibility of the voter to avail this facility.

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Counting of Postal Ballots

Election Commission rules say that PBs received by the RO up to the hour fixed for commencement of counting must be counted.

  • A PB can still be counted as long as it reaches before the commencement of counting itself.

Each counting table receives not more than 500 ballots in each round of counting with up to four tables dedicated for calculating just PBs.

  • Staff involved in postal ballot counting are trained specifically about all aspects of postal ballot voting. Each table will have a counting agent representing each candidate.

First the declaration of postal voter is checked for any issues. All legitimate declarations are then collected and sealed before the ballots are opened and tallied.

  • This is done to maintain the secrecy of the vote, which is very important.

The total number of postal votes obtained by each candidate so counted will be entered in the result sheet in Form 20 and announced.

  • Candidates have to know exactly how many PBs were received and how many were in their favour.

All the rejected postal ballots at counting tables are reverified personally by the RO before being set aside.

  • If the RO finds any of these rejected PBs fit to be counted, they are counted as valid.

Grounds for Rejection of Postal Votes:

  • If no vote is recorded on the paper
  • If votes are given in favour of more than one candidate on the ballot paper
  • If it is a fake ballot paper
  • If the ballot paper has been so damaged that its identity as genuine ballot paper cannot be established
  • If the ballot is not returned in the appropriate envelope that was sent to the voter by the RO
  • If the mark indicating the vote is made in such a way that it is difficult to make out the candidate to whom the vote has been given
  • If the ballot bears any mark or writing by which the voter can be identified

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Post-counting of Postal Ballots

After the counting is over, all rejected and valid PBs are separately bundled away and packed in sealed packets by the RO. This will ensure that these PBs are available for a recount.

EC rules mandate that in case the victory margin is less than total number of postal ballots received then there should be re-verification of all postal ballots.

The Observer and the RO will reverify and tally all the postal ballots rejected as invalid as well as those counted in favour of each and every candidate.

The findings of re-verification shall be recorded by Observer and RO before finalising the result.

The whole process needs to be video-graphed without compromising the secrecy of the ballot and the video-cassette/CD should be sealed in a separate envelope for future reference.


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