In an attempt to provide better voting facilities, armed forces and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) personnel will receive ballot papers electronically for the first time during this year’s Lok Sabha elections.
To further speed up the process, their ballots will be sent back to their home constituencies via speed post, as opposed to ordinary post, which was the norm until the 2014 general elections.
In 2016, the Election Commission of India (ECI) introduced the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot and a web portal on which service personnel are required to register themselves and download and print ballots using one-time passwords.
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As per the latest electoral roll published by the ECI last month, a total of 16.62 lakh military and CAPF personnel posted across the country are registered as service voters. Prior to 2016, returning officers of polling booths would post ballot papers to the service voters.
The personnel were then required to mark their votes and send them back to the returning officers in self-addressed envelopes by ordinary post.
“This caused a lot of delay in receiving the votes. A lot of letters would not even reach the polling booths while others would reach just before counting was to begin,” explained a senior post department official.
Under the new system — which was used in various Assembly elections in the last three years — after filling in their ballot papers, service voters are required to sign declaration forms, get them attested by unit commanders and send both documents in two different sealed envelops, which do not require postage stamps.
“Speed post ensures that the ballots reach the returning officers in time for counting. While earlier it would take up to seven days for ballots to reach returning officers, speed post cuts that time down to 2-3 days,” added the official.
The Election Commission of India has observed an increase in the number of service voters. During the 2014 elections, a total of 13.27 lakh personnel were registered as service voters.