Can NRIs Vote by Post ?
How NRIs could vote by post
WHY IN NEWS:
It’s a recent proposal from the Election Commission to the Law Ministry.
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Election Commission
For PRELIMS it is very important to understand the current status of NRI Voting measures , Proxy Voting etc.
For MAINS keep an on the series of amendments on Representation of people’s Act . Let us dive in !
CAN NRIS VOTE BY POST ?
- The EC told the government it had received representations from the Indian diaspora about facilitating voting through postal votes since travelling to India only for this purpose is a “costly affair”.
- Otherwise, too they cannot leave the country of their residence owing to specific compulsions of employment, education or other engagements.
CURRENT VOTING PROCESS FOR INDIAN CITIZENS LIVING ABROAD
- An NRI can vote in the constituency in which her place of residence, as mentioned in the passport, is located.
- Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950.
WHAT IS CURRENT STRENGTH OF NRI VOTERS?
- According to a UN report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world at 16 million people.
- In last year’s Lok Sabha elections, roughly 25,000 of them flew to India to vote.
HOW POSTAL BALLOTS WORK FOR NRIS?
- According to the EC proposal, any NRI interested in voting through the postal ballot in an election will have to inform the Returning Officer (RO) .
- It should not be later than five days after the notification of the election.
- On receiving such information, the RO will dispatch the ballot paper electronically.
- The NRI voters will download the ballot paper, mark their preference on the printout and send it back .
- It’s not clear, at this moment, if the voter will return the ballot paper herself through ordinary post or drop it off at the Indian Embassy.
- This may then segregate the envelopes constituency-wise and send them to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state concerned for forwarding to the RO.
HOW AND WHEN DID THE PROPOSAL ORIGINATE?
- The EC began to look for options to enable NRIs to vote from overseas after it received several requests, including one from former Rajya Sabha MP Naveen Jindal.
- Three writ petitions were filed by NRIs in the Supreme Court in 2013 and 2014.
A 12-member committee was set up after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to study mainly three options —
- Voting by post
- Voting at an Indian mission abroad
- Online voting.
- It also shot down the proposal to vote at Indian missions abroad as they do not have adequate resources.
- In 2015, the panel finally recommended that NRIs should be given the “additional alternative options of e-postal ballot and proxy voting”, apart from voting in person.
- The Law Ministry accepted the recommendation on proxy voting.
DO ALL POLITICAL PARTIES SUPPORT POSTAL BALLOT VOTING?
- The 12-member committee appointed by the EC had consulted national political parties.
- Among parties, only the NCP has expressed complete support to the EC for postal voting for NRIs.
SOURCES : TOI
- According to the BSP, BJP and CPI, postal ballots were not a viable option due to time constraint.
- The Congress was not in favour of sending the postal ballot paper electronically.
- Interestingly, the MEA expressed strong reservations over attesting the declaration that NRI voters will have to send along with their marked ballot papers.
- The MEA had said “diplomatic missions do not have the logistical wherewithal to handle attestation for a large number of overseas electors” .
PROXY VOTING RIGHTS TO OVERSEAS ELECTORS?
- The Union Cabinet passed the proposal on proxy voting rights for NRIs in 2017.
- The government then brought a Bill amending the Representation of the People Act 1950.
- This proposal hasn’t been revived yet.
- In its letter last week, the EC pushed only for postal voting rights for NRIs, not proxy voting.
- To extend the postal voting facility to overseas voters, the government only needs to amend the Conduct of Election Rules 1961.
- It doesn’t require Parliament’s nod.
CAN EXPATRIATES OF OTHER COUNTRIES VOTE IN ELECTIONS IN THEIR HOME COUNTRIES?
- Many countries allow expatriates to vote, but the eligibility criteria and the voting procedure differ from one nation to another.
- As long as he is a British or Irish citizen and was a registered voter in the UK in the last 15 years.
- Those who were minors at the time of leaving the country can also vote as long as their parent or guardian was registered to vote in the UK.
- Overseas electors can either travel back to the UK to vote in person or vote by post or nominate a proxy to do so.
- American expatriates enjoy voting rights in the US irrespective of how long they have been living abroad.
- They can vote for federal office candidates in the primary and general elections.
- Adults can exercise absentee voting by submitting a completed Federal Post Card Application or FPCA to their local election officials.
- The ballot paper has to be sent back the same way before a designated deadline.
SOURCES: IE | Can NRIs Vote by Post ?