The Election Commission (EC) has decided against extending the postal ballot facility to voters above 65 years in the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections, citing logistical challenges.
The facility, however, will be available to senior citizens above the age of 80, those physically challenged as well as to Covid-19 patients.
The EC’s announcement comes as five political parties — the Congress, CPI, CPI(M), TMC and the RJD — made clear to the EC their opposition to allowing voters above 65 years to vote via postal ballots. The move, they had argued, would expose senior citizens to influence by the administration and the party in power.
The EC’s press statement, however, makes no mention of the opposition to the decision. It cited the “challenges and constraints” of conducting an election amid a pandemic as the reason for not extending the postal ballot facility to voters above 65 years for the Bihar elections.
For the Bihar elections, the EC has also limited the number of electors to 1,000 for each polling station for “ease of voting”. To implement this, the EC would need to create an additional 34,000 polling stations.
“This would entail formidable logistical challenges of mobilizing 1.8 lakh more polling personnel and other additional resources including requirement of much larger number of vehicles in the State of Bihar,” says EC’s press statement.
Last month, the Law Ministry, at the EC’s behest, had amended the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, to allow senior citizens aged 65 and above and Covid-19 patients to use postal ballots to cast their vote in any election.
The poll panel had justified the decision, saying that a May 17 notification by the Home Ministry had identified senior citizens as being at a higher risk of contracting the infection. The EC had also said that postal ballots would ensure that Covid-19 patients are not denied the right to vote.
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