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17 March 2023: e-mail Ballots for Overseas Voters

CONTEXT:

  • The proposal of the Election Commission to facilitate an electronically-transmitted postal ballot system (ETPBS) for overseas Indian voters is under discussion with the External Affairs ministry in order to check the challenges involved in the implementation.
  • The proposal is about amending the Conduct of Elections Rule, 1961, to facilitate ETPBS for overseas Indian voters.

ELECTRONICALLY TRANSMITTED POSTAL BALLOT SYSTEM—CONDUCT OF ELECTION RULES, 1961

The Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) enables the one-way electronic transmission of postal ballots to service voters (categorically defined as the central forces under the Arms Act and government officials stationed in embassies) via electronic transmission.

  • Through ETPBS, the spouse of a service voter who normally resides with him is also permitted to vote.
  • The returning officer verifies the receipt of postal ballots at the counting centres by comparing a series of QR codes with those of the sent system.
  • The ballot must reach the returning officer by 8:00 a.m. on the day of the count, as counting of postal ballots begins at 8:00 a.m.
  • As of now, service voters do not include NRIs (they were allowed to vote in person through an amendment in 2011 to the RPA 1950).
  • Before this amendment, NRIs were not entitled to vote because, before 2011, only ordinary residents were voters (and NRIs are not ordinary residents in India).
  • In case they are to be included, this won’t require an amendment via the Parliament because the Conduct of Election Rule, 1961, can be changed by the executive.

CURRENT STATUS OF VOTING FOR THE OVERSEAS VOTER

  • As of now, overseas voter is not issued a photo identity card, but they are allowed to vote in person at the polling station by producing their original passport.
  • In 2018, the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill was passed in Lok Sabha to enable overseas electors to cast their votes in person or by proxy. but the bill did not become an act as it was pending in the Rajya Sabha and lapsed due to the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.