AUCKLAND: MEA OK with proposal to give NRIs e-ballots

AUCKLAND: MEA OK with proposal to give NRIs e-ballots

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has written to the Election Commission
favouring its recent proposal to allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to vote
remotely through electronically-transmitted postal ballot system (ETPBS) from
their country of residence. However, it has suggested that the poll body hold
consultations with all stakeholders before rolling out the facility.

NRIs, as per the current election laws, must cast their vote in person at their
respective constituencies in India.

Sources in EC indicated that the poll panel will, as indicated by MEA, start
consultations soon with NRI associations and various ministries and departments
that will be involved in the exercise.

The ETPBS facility is already extended to service voters that include members
of the Armed forces and para-military forces as well as government employees
serving abroad.

EC had, in its November 27 letter addressed to the law secretary, proposed that
necessary amendments be made in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, “at the
earliest” to enable the Indian diaspora to vote through postal ballot, adding
that it is “technically and administratively ready to extend this facility in
general elections to legislative assemblies of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala,
Tamil Nadu and Puducherry” due in April-May.

There are around 1.17 lakh NRIs registered as voters in the electoral rolls. EC
in its letter stated that it has been receiving several representations from
the Indian diaspora to facilitate voting through postal ballot since such
overseas electors are not in a position to be present in their polling area as
travelling to India for this purpose is a costly affair and otherwise too, they
cannot leave their country of residence owing to compulsions like employment,
education or other engagements. The protocols associated with Covid-19, have
further compounded the problem, it added.

As per EC proposal, an NRI may be issued a postal ballot electronically after
he intimates his wish to vote through Form 12 to the returning officer, which
must be received at least five days after notification of election. The duly
filled up postal ballot – attested by an officer to be appointed by the
diplomatic or consular representative of India in the country where the
overseas elector is resident — must be returned by post to the returning
officer of the NRI’s constituency in India such that it is received latest by 8
am on the counting day.

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