Law ministry

Electoral Commission writes to Department of Justice regarding mail-in ballots cast by duty officers

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has once again knocked on the doors of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice. This time for an amendment to Rule 18 of the Rules of Conduct for Elections, 1961. The letter to the Ministry of Justice proposes that officers and staff and police personnel on election duty should be required to vote by post only in the facilitation centers.

The ECI is investigating the potential misuse of the mail-in voting facility granted to electors on election duty. Until now, election staff either voted by mail at the facilitation centers or mailed the ballots to the returning officer for them to reach him before counting began at 8:00 a.m. on Election Day. counting.

It has been observed that this practice leads to potential abuses as the ballot paper held by these voters in electoral service is kept with them for a long time. This makes them very vulnerable to undue influence, threats, bribes and other unethical means from candidates or political parties.

Electoral commission sources told India Today: “The idea behind the amendment came after it was observed that in previous elections, voters on election duty who receive an absentee ballot do not did not vote at the voter facilitation center but took their absentee ballot with them, saying they had time to vote until 8 a.m. on the day of the count.

“If a person keeps the absentee ballot with themselves, chances are they will be pressured to deal with it,” the sources added.

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These amendments, a series of which were initiated by the CEC Rajiv Kumar, aim to clean up the electoral process.

The Commission at its recent meeting, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey, decided to send a recommendation to the Ministry of Law and Justice to ensure that voters in electoral service vote at the Election Facilitation Centre. only.

In National Assembly elections held in the past two years, in some states like Goa, Kerala and Manipur, more than 50% of mail-in ballots were received by post from election service personnel. In Uttarakhand, not even a single postal ballot was dropped off at the facilitation center.

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CEC Rajiv Kumar seeks to clean up the system with this amendment as the data indicates that agents did not vote by mail at facilitation centers.

The commission’s standard policy is that Election Service Officers are deployed to a constituency other than their home constituency to administer and oversee voting at assigned polling stations. Due to this arrangement, they cannot vote in person at their home polling station.

According to the scheme in force, the agents in electoral service request the ballot papers by correspondence from the president of the election concerned at the time of their training who, after diligence, delivers the ballot papers by correspondence to the training center during the cycles of following trainings and is also setting up a facilitation center to allow these election service agents to vote at the facilitation center itself before they are routed to designated polling stations for election service.

The facilitation center is equipped with all the necessary provisions to ensure a secret and transparent vote in the presence of the candidates or their representatives.

However, they also have the possibility of sending their ballot paper by post to the president of the election in order to reach the latter before the time set for the start of the counting (8 am) on the day of the counting.

Many of these voters keep mail-in ballots at home for a long time after completing their electoral duty, as general elections are normally held in a staggered fashion to manage logistics and force requirements.

Thus, ensuring voting at the voter facilitation center set up for voters on election duty would minimize the potential misuse of the postal voting system for free, fair and transparent elections.

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