December 15, 2020, 6:19:40 p.m.
In a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MEA) last week, the Electoral Commission (EC) told the government which countries it would do so would like to introduce postal voting for NRIs on a pilot basis.
The proposal may be implemented first for voters based in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany, France and South Africa.
For now, The Gulf States are not part of the proposed pilot project.
What is the reason that the EC excludes the Gulf States with their important Indian diaspora from the proposed pilot project?
The Commission obviously has nothing against the NRIs located in the Gulf States such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, in the past the MEA has expressed strong reservations about making voting easier for Indian citizens living in non-democratic countries.
Permits are required for a democratic exercise involving voters outside of Indian missions and embassies in non-democratic countries, and the host country may not be able to approve it.
In view of these concerns, the EC has not included the Gulf States in its pilot test for the time being.
What is the current strength of NRI voters?
According to a 2015 UN report, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world at 16 million people.
The registration of NRI voters was very low in comparison: According to the European Commission, a little more than 1 lakh were registered overseas as voters in India.
In last year’s Lok Sabha elections, around 25,000 of them flew to India to vote. 📣 Follow the express explained in the telegram
In which countries in India are the most NRIs registered as voters?
The EC has no data on NRI voters broken down by country. Rather, the commission stores the data for each state in India.
Therefore we know the states in which NRIs are registered as voters, but not the foreign country in which they live.
Of the 1.18 lakh NRI voters, the largest number – about 89,000 – are registered in Kerala to vote. The second largest cohort (around 7,500) is registered in Andhra Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra (around 5,500), Karnataka (around 4,500), Tamil Nadu (3,200) and Telangana (2,500).
Given that the electoral body is now interested in allowing foreign voters to vote from abroad in Indian elections, it must also keep country-specific information.
How does postal voting work for NRIs if approved?
In its meeting with the MEA last week, the EC proposed that every NRI interested in voting by postal vote must inform the returnee (RO) no later than five days after the announcement of the election. After receiving this information, the RO will send the voting slip electronically.
An officer-designate from the Indian Mission will download the ballot on behalf of the voter and give it to the overseas voter. The foreign voter can then mark her preference on the mission, receive the self-declaration form certified by the officer-designate, and return the ballot and declaration form to the mission in a sealed envelope.
The mission then sends all envelopes to the election officer concerned.
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