From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Postal ballot
Mains level : Ensuring transparency in elections
The Election Commission has announced that it will allow those above the age of 65 as well as those under home or institutional quarantine to vote using postal ballots during the Bihar elections. Opposition parties are unhappy with the move and termed it unconstitutional.
Try this question from CSP 2017:
Q.Consider the following statements:
- The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
- Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
- Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognized political parties.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only
What is Postal Voting?
- A restricted set of voters can exercise postal voting.
- Through this facility, a voter can cast her vote remotely by recording her preference on the ballot paper and sending it back to the election officer before counting.
Who can avail of this facility?
- Members of the armed forces like the Army, Navy and Air Force, members of the armed police force of a state (serving outside the state), government employees posted outside India and their spouses are entitled to vote only by post.
- In other words, they can’t vote in person. Voters under preventive detention can also vote only by post.
- Special voters such as the President of India, Vice President, Governors, Union Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House and government officers on poll duty have the option to vote by post.
- But they have to apply through a prescribed form to avail this facility.
What about absentee voters?
- Recently, the Law Ministry, at the Election Commission’s behest, introduced a new category of ‘absentee voters’, who can now also opt for postal voting.
- These are voters employed in essential services and unable to cast their vote due to their service conditions.
- Currently, officials of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Northern Railway (Passenger and Freight) Services and media persons are notified as absentee voters.
- Last month, senior citizens above the age of 65 and voters who test positive for COVID19 or are suspected to be COVID-affected were allowed to cast their vote by post.
How are votes recorded by post?
- The Returning Officer is supposed to print ballot papers within 24 hours of the last date of nomination withdrawal and dispatch them within a day.
- This is done so that the ballot papers reach the concerned voter well before the polling date and she has enough time to send it back before the counting day.
- Postal ballot papers for members of the Armed Forces are sent through their record offices.
- For members of the armed police force of a state (serving outside the state), government employees posted outside India and their spouses, the ballot paper can be sent through post or electronically.
- For remaining categories ballot papers can be delivered personally or through the post.
Why political parties are divided over postal ballots?
- Opposition parties are not against postal ballots.
- They have objected to the EC’s decision to allow voters aged 65 and above and those infected or suspected to be infected with COVID19 to vote via postal ballots.
- This change was effected without consulting political parties.
- They fear that the move will lead to malpractices and foul play by those parties which are in power and having resources.
Issues with the recent move
- Allowing those aged 65 and above to vote by postal ballot violates secrecy in voting as a large segment of the population is uneducated and they might seek assistance from others.
- This will end up disclosing their preferred candidate.
- This also exposes them to “administrative influence or influence by the Government or the ruling party”.