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Postal Voting Rights For NRIs



The News

  • In November 2020, the Election Commission of India (ECI) wrote to the Law Ministry, proposing to extend the facility of postal ballots to (eligible) overseas, non-resident Indians (NRIs) for the Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in 2021.
  • The ECI proposed amending the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, in order to allow this facility.

What this e-postal ballot?

  • ECI launched the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) in 2016.
  • This was used in the 2019 general elections.
  • ETPBS is the one-way electronic transmission of the Postal ballots available to the Service Voters only as of now.


Do Overseas voters vote?

  • Before 2010, an Indian citizen who is an eligible voter and was residing abroad for more than six months owing to employment, education or otherwise, would not have been able to vote in elections.
  • This was because the NRI’s name was deleted from electoral rolls.
  • Representation of the People Act was amended in 2010. It allowed eligible NRIs who had stayed abroad beyond six months have been enabled to vote, but only in person at the polling station where they have been enrolled as an overseas elector.

How many?

Was the facility availed?

  • In 2014 elections merely 11,846 overseas voters registered themselves. (Very few voted..!!)
  • In 2019, almost 1 lakh voters registered themselves. (Majority of them were from Kerala).


Why low Voter turnout?

  • The proviso of having to visit the polling booth in person has discouraged eligible voters from exercising their mandate.
    • In 2017, the government proposed to remove the restriction which required overseas voters to be physically present to vote.
      • The Bill provided for overseas voters to be able to appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf.
      • The Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
    • Now the ECI has approached the government to permit NRIs to vote via postal ballots similar to service voters through ETPBS.
    • The Law Ministry is yet to respond to the proposal.
    • But You do respond. Let me know your view on this in the comments section..!!


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