India is forever in elation mode. About 900 million Indians were eligible to vote in the 2019 General Elections, and out of which about 67 exercised their right to vote. Off late, the Election Commission has given renewed impetus on increasing the voter participation to make a more participatory democracy. At the same time, there are many persons, especially who are incapacitated due to place of work, old age and disability and are not able to exercise their right to vote.

Did you know that the Government has now extended the postal ballot facility to senior citizens above eighty years of age and persons with disability (PWDs)? Interestingly, postal ballot facility is now also available to people working in the aviation sector, trains, shipping sector, long-distance Govt. Road transport corporation buses, fire services, medical services, traffic, media personnel authorized for coverage of elections, etc, who otherwise would not have been able to vote due to their nature of work. Earlier, the facility of the postal ballot was available only to personnel of the armed forces and government employees posted out of India. Persons who were on election duty and those kept in preventive detention were also eligible to use the postal ballot.

The Government has also tried to make use of the electronic postal ballot, i.e. the postal ballot is electronically transmitted to the voter by the Returning Officer. Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) have been used in several State Assembly Elections. There have been demands to have the postal ballot facility for NRIs. However, the Government has stated in February 2019 that it has no intention to bring legislation to allow NRIs to vote through postal or e-ballots.

Thus, it is clear that e-postal ballots may well become the first step towards electronic voting in India. Their safety and security need to be studied in greater detail in order to ensure transparency as well as have a robust voting system. In the next post, we will delve into the world and functioning of postal ballots!

 

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