Editorials Community News Election Commission of India mulling over Proxy Voting and Postal Balloting for NRIs
Election Commission of India mulling over Proxy Voting and Postal Balloting for NRIs
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NEW YORK (TIP): In a first ever outreach to NRI’s, a two-member delegation from the Election Commission of India
held, July 31, a news conference and a community meeting, organized
with GOPIO’s initiative, at the Consulate General of India in New York.
The delegation members briefed the gathering about the Election
Commission’s proposals to facilitate voting by proxy and postal ballot
to NRI’s. They also sought suggestions to ensure that the NRI poll
process will be seamless. As of now the NRI voter has to be physically
present in India to cast his/ her vote.
It may be mentioned here that it was for
the first time in many years that a delegation from Election Commission
visited the US to brief the media and interact with community. The
visit helped community to understand what the government of India was
doing and the delegation got a feedback as to the expectations of
The delegation — comprising Senior
Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha and Deputy Election
Commissioner Sandeep Saxena – held a meeting last week with in-charge
Consul General Paramita Tripathi and other consulate officials. About 30
NRIs representing various organizations and members of the Indian news
media were present at the meeting.
“We have launched a No (NRI) Voter Left
Behind campaign,” they said last week. “Proxy voting is in a very
advanced stage and electronic postal balloting is also under serious
In the proxy voting method, an NRI voter
will be given the opportunity of choosing a voter in India on whom the
voter has immense trust. Basing on the voter’s opinion, the proxy person
will cast the voter’s ballot physically at the polling station
The PTI news agency, citing a senior government functionary, reported on August 2 that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had accepted the proxy voting proposal recommended by the Election Commission.
In the e-postal balloting, the
prospective NRI voter will have to take a printout of the voter form and
mail it to the Election Commission offices in respective states.
The two poll panel officials made it
clear that the two proposals have not yet become law. Only after an act
is made, NRIs will be able to participate in the election process in
India beginning first with national and state polls. But both are
confident that the relevant laws will be made by parliament in time for
the next general elections scheduled for April-May 2019.
There are an estimated 16 million NRIs
who hold Indian passports. Of them up to 70 percent are eligible voters,
according to the duo.
Another noteworthy proposal of the
Election Commission related to involving young Indian students studying
abroad in the electoral process of India. Emphasizing the importance of
involvement of the young Indians abroad, the two members of the
delegation announced that senior students at colleges and universities
will be asked to take initiative to register student voters. They will
be designated Election Commission ambassadors.
Among the community organizations present was the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin,
represented by veteran NRI Thomas Abraham, who still holds the Indian
passport. Several other NRI attendees also hold the country’s passport.
However, some Indian-Americans holding the US passport also took part in
The attendees with the Election Commission delegation and the Deputy Consul General
A few questions were also raised by
media persons and community members. A question related to voting rights
for those who for some reason have not been issued passport by
Government of India. Another related to allowing the persons of Indian
origin the right to vote which, it was argued will lead to their greater
involvement in the affairs of the country of their origin. A suggestion
was made that the Indian missions abroad could be the polling booths
for NRI voters.
The reply of the delegation was it was
not for them to do anything in respect of the suggestions made about the
voting right to a category: it was for the lawmakers to decide.