EC mulls postal ballots for NRIs, but excludes migrants from Gulf

New Delhi: Over a year after the bill lapsed, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has yet again approached the government to permit proxy voting—i.e. to permit non-residential Indians (NRIs) to cast their vote via postal ballots. A pilot project is likely to kick-start in 2021 state elections in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

However, interestingly, voters residing in the Gulf countries—the majority of which are migrants—are excluded in the list of voters in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, and South Africa, according to ECI’s proposal.

According to the EC that there are around 1 crore NRIs, of which 60 lakh are eligible to vote. Reportedly, the reason given by EC for excluding Gulf countries is that they are not democracies, which is drawing flak from civil liberty experts.

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“Why should NRIs living in Gulf countries be excluded? Conducting a pilot project in far-flung countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa, etc., seems very strange. It would be rather practical to conduct a pilot project in 1-2 countries, which are not very far from here,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member, Association of Democratic Reforms to The Quint.

According to the ECI’s proposal, any NRI interested in voting through the postal ballot in an election will have to inform the Returning Officer (RO) at least five days after the notification of the election. On receiving such information, the RO will dispatch the ballot paper electronically.

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