Keen on expanding the ambit of postal ballots, the Election Commission (EC) has proposed to allow voters on duty in the aviation sector, shipping sector, trains, fire services, medical services, traffic, long-distance road transport corporation buses, the aged, the physically challenged, and journalists covering elections to vote by post in the upcoming assembly elections.
The EC has sent a proposal to the Union Law Ministry this week seeking changes to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, to extend the facility of postal voting to people who cannot vote in person “on account of compulsion of their service conditions”.
Currently, only service voters (armed forces, the armed police force of a state and government servants posted abroad), voters on election duty and those in preventive detention are allowed to cast their votes through postal ballot. The exception is provided in Section 60 of the RP Act, 1951.
Under this method, ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and returned via post. The remaining eligible voters are expected to cast a vote in person at designated polling stations.
The EC’s letter justifies the recommendation to expand the above category of special voters stating, “it is necessary to explore all avenues to enable exercise of franchise by all eligible voters”.
“In order to ensure that the process of issuing of postal ballot etc. happens in a controlled environment so as to eliminate chances of undue influence and interference in the casting of vote through postal ballot, the Commission intends to provide the facility in specific centres on specific days duly supervised by elections officials,” states the letter.
In the case of the aged and physically-challenged voters, the EC has proposed that the postal ballot paper should be delivered to them at home and collected back “then and there in a controlled, safe and secure environment”.
“It is requested that the necessary amendments may be made at the earliest considering that General Elections to Legislative Assemblies of certain states are due in the immediate future,” the EC letter further states.
The government has already accepted the EC’s recommendation to allow registered NRI voters to appoint proxies to cast a vote on their behalf. An amendment to the RP Act was passed by the Lok Sabha last year. It is now pending in the Rajya Sabha.