Remote Voting for NRIs
About Remote Voting:
- Remote voting may take place in person somewhere other than an assigned polling station or at another time, or votes may be sent by post or cast by an appointed proxy.
- The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill of 2017 had proposed the removal of an “unreasonable restriction” posed by Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 requiring overseas electors to be physically present in their electoral constituencies to cast their votes.
- Of the registered overseas electors, 90% belonged to Kerala.
- Others registered are from Gujarat, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu among other States.
About Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS):
- The Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) involves the NRI voter sending an application to the returning officer in person or online.
- The returning officer will send the ballot electronically.
- The voter can then register their mandate on the ballot printout and send it back with an attested declaration.
- The voter will either send the ballot by ordinary post or drop it at an Indian Embassy where it would be segregated and posted.
The need for Remote Voting:
- According to estimates, India has the largest diaspora population, with nearly 1.35 crore non-resident Indians spread across the globe.
- Many of them are in the Gulf countries, the U.S. and the U.K. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 99,844 NRIs registered and 25,606 electors turned up to vote, with a majority hailing from Kerala (25,534).
- In the 2014 Parliamentary elections, 11,846 NRIs registered and only a fraction turned up to vote.
What has been done:
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) formed a Committee in 2014 on the Court’s direction to explore the options for overseas electors.
- The committee narrowed it down to two remote voting options — e-postal ballot and proxy voting.
- In 2020, the ECI wrote to the Law Ministry that it was “technically and administratively ready” to facilitate ETPBS for NRIs in the 2021 Assembly elections in five States.
- However, the External Affairs Ministry flagged “huge logistical challenges” relating to identity verification of voters, absence of polling agents, the burden on embassy staff etc.