Electoral Reforms In India

Comparing the mandates of election commissions of India and the U.S.

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Power of the ECI

Mains level : Paper 2- Comparing the powers of the Election Commission of India to its counterpart in the U.S.

In the recently concluded presidential election in the U.S., the delay in announcing the result and issue of denial of the election results by the incumbent has brought into focus the role played by flaws in the Americal democratic system in the conduct of the election. This article compares the powers of the elections bodies in the U.S. and India.

Powers of ECI

  • Indian Constitution has given the ECI enormous power to be exercised during the course of elections, and strictly on other election-related matters.
  • By virtue of being the custodian of the electoral roll, all matters related to keeping the roll updated, fall under the ECI’s domain.
  • Even the higher judiciary does not interfere during the course of the election process.
  • Our Constitution’s fathers decided to limit the role of the judiciary in India to the post-election period, when election petitions may be filed.
  • This was done to avoid the impeding of the election process and delay election results interminably.

Comparing the powers

  • The U.S. Federal Election Commission has a much narrower mandate than its Indian equivalent-Election Commission of India.
  • The Federal Election Commission was established comparatively recently — 1975, with the special mandate to regulate campaign finance issues.
  • As a watchdog, it is meant to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the law regarding campaign contributions, and oversee public funding of the presidential election.
  • The Federal Election Commission is led by six Commissioners.
  • These six posts are supposed to be equally shared by Democrats and Republicans, and too have to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • This leads to decision making divided on partisan lines.

What India can learn From the election process in the U.S.

  • In the 2016 U.S. election, almost a quarter of the votes counted arose from postal and early balloting.
  • In India we have confined postal ballots to only a few categories, of largely government staff (for example those on election duty) as well as the police or armed forces.
  • In these difficult times of the novel coronavirus pandemic, we need to widen this base to include all senior citizens and anyone else who may find it convenient to cast their vote early.

Consider the question “Powers of the Election Commission of India are wider when compared with its counterpart in the U.S. In light of this, compare the powers of the two bodies and how these wide powers have enabled smooth power transfers in India.” 

Conclusion

In its functioning, Election Commission of India has broad powers as compared to its counterpart in the U.S. which has helped India see a smooth power transfer from the first election in India in 1951-52 and every single election since.

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