The Indian government has announced a new opportunity for Non-Resident Indians (NRI) to be able to cast their votes at Indian elections. By offering a vote by postal-ballot option, the Election Commission of India has opened up the opportunity for NRIs to vote in Indian elections from overseas.
Previously, it was proposed to allow eligible Indian voters overseas to cast their ballot through proxy. However, with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha this proposal lapsed and didn’t see the light of day. Currently, all NRIs have to vote in person only and be available in their registered constituency in India.
The new proposal, if passed will require the Election Commission to amend the Conduct of Election Rules from 1961. The NRI’s access to the Indian electorate will have a major impact in the general elections to legislative assemblies of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, which is scheduled for the summer of 2021.
What Is The Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS)?
The new postal ballot system proposes a voting option where the voter receives the ballot electronically. He fills in his preference and returns the ballot to the election officer before the counting begins at 8 am on the final day. All counting is meant to start with the counting of postal ballots first.
How Does The New Postal Ballot System Work For NRIs?
The following steps are proposed for the NRI should he choose to cast his ballot in Indian elections:
- Register with the local Indian embassy or voter registration booth as directed by the US consulate in your region, outside India. So far close to 117,000 NRIs have registered to vote.
- Alternatively, you can also register in the electronic portal supported by the ECI and download specific forms 6A.
- This is also available at http://nvsp.in where they are working to incorporate overseas voters once the proposal is passed.
- During this registration process, the voter intimates his desire to cast his vote via postal ballot by filling out Form 12 as directed by the secure electronic system.
- This process should be completed 5 days after the election notification is sent out to all voters.
- A background verification process is conducted by an election officer in India. Once cleared, the voter is notified via phone and the website is updated.
- The voter will electronically receive the ballot paper. This process is to be further fine-tuned by the Election Commission.
- The electronic ballot should be downloaded, voter’s preference marked and sent back.
- The voter also has to sign an affidavit declaring his choice and certifying his NRI status, and attested by an officer appointed by the diplomatic representative of India in the country of residence.
- These NRI postal ballots plus documents will be sent back to India for counting through diplomatic bags. These are sealed and protected containers meant for official correspondence between a diplomatic mission and its home government.
When Is An NRI Eligible To Vote?
“A citizen of India, absent from the country owing to employment, education or any other temporary reason, and has not acquired citizenship of any other country and are otherwise eligible to be registered as a voter in the address mentioned in his passport’ is eligible to participate in the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System”, according to the Election Commission of India.
Currently, India doesn’t allow any non-service person to cast votes from abroad yet. Only military personnel and government officials outside their registered jurisdiction are allowed to vote by mail. As this proposal is being evaluated, there is a strong push towards allowing for NRIs to partake in Indian elections.