Lamenting that the number of registered overseas voters is “abysmally low”, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra has told members of the Indian community in South Africa and Mauritius that the facility to extend postal ballot facility for NRI electors is being contemplated. According to an official statement issued by the Election Commission, Chandra interacted with members of the Indian community during his official visit to the two countries and urged them to register as overseas voters as the present numbers are “abysmally low”.
He also told members of the Indian community that extension of the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) facility to overseas voters is being contemplated. The ETPBS facility is so far available only to service voters, including members of the armed forces and central armed police forces posted outside their home constituencies and members of Indian embassies and diplomatic missions.
In 2020, the EC had proposed to the government to extend the ETPBS facility to eligible overseas Indian voters as well. In a letter to the legislative secretary in the law ministry on November 27, 2020, the commission had said that with the successful execution of ETPBS in the case of service voters, it is now “confident” that the facility can also be extended to the overseas electors. The EC, the Union Law Ministry, and the Ministry of External Affairs are trying to hammer out certain issues related to extending the facility to overseas Indian voters.
As of now, overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in constituencies they are registered in. EC sources said nearly 112000 overseas Indians are registered as voters during the visit to the two countries, a briefing-cum-interaction was organized with the NRI community at Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Port Louis.
Chandra shared the Indian experience of conducting elections with the members of the diaspora. He said that India, being the largest democracy, conducts elections for more than 950 million voters across more than a million polling stations. Over the past few years, Indian elections have made steady progress towards making elections inclusive and accessible which has led to greater participation of women, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens in Indian elections.
The CEC said this remarkable achievement of conducting free, fair, and participative elections in a country as diverse as India comes as a result of robust election management practices which include the use of technology for enhancing the participation of voters through applications like cVIGIL, voter education through SVEEP, use of EVM-VVPAT, all-women managed polling booths, single unified electoral roll on a single digital platform, deployment of central observers and very robust expenditure monitoring mechanisms