New Delhi: Accepting a long-pending demand, government has amended electoral rules to allow service voters, including Armed Forces personnel, to get their postal ballot through electronic means to save valuable time.
This would mean that service voters, including personnel from armed forces, can now download the blank post ballot sent to them electronically, mark their preference and post the filled-up ballot back to their respective returning officers. This would cut short the delay experienced in the present system of two-way transmission of ballot paper by the postal services, official sources said here. Two-way electronic transmission has not been recommended by the Election Commission for security and secrecy reasons, the sources pointed out.
The armed forces personnel serving in remote and border areas would be greatly benefited since the present system of two-way transmission of ballot paper by the postal services has not been able to meet the expectations of the service voters, they said.
The government has issued notification on October 21, amending rule 23 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 enabling service voters, including armed forces personnel, to cast their vote in elections through e-postal ballot, a source said. The issue had also come up before the Supreme Court where it was pleaded that an effective mechanism be created for armed forces personnel and their families to exercise their right to vote easily and effectively. The government had approached the Election Commission to help mitigate the difficulties faced by service voters while exercising their franchise.
The technical team of the Election Commission has developed a system whereby a blank postal ballot could be electronically transmitted to the voter. Voters entitled to postal ballot, such as service voters, can download the postal ballot and print the blank postal ballot. After marking his vote in the blank postal ballot, the same would be returned to the concerned Returning Officer by post as in the present system of postal ballot.
The Commission had proposed that more categories of voters be made eligible for e-postal ballot system. However, on a pilot basis, e-postal ballot system has been introduced for service voters consisting of armed police forces of the central government, other forces subject to the provisions of the Army Act, armed forces of a state serving outside that state, and those employed under the government of India in a post outside India. One-way electronic transmission of blank postal ballot would considerably cut short the delay in receipt of the marked postal ballot by the Returning Officers on or before the date fixed for counting of votes, the sources said.