New Delhi | More than 11 million NRIs and 20 lakh defence and paramilitary personnel will soon be enrolled in electoral rolls with the government today setting the ball rolling for exploring ways for facilitating electronic voting for them. During a high-level meeting chaired Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended among others by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the issue was discussed threadbare as to how to facilitate e-voting facility to NRI, defence, paramilitary and police personnel as directed by the Supreme Court.
Official sources said the option of sending ballot papers to services voters or uploading it in Election Commission websites was discussed. However, the option of electronically sending the ballot to services voters or NRI voters after casting the vote is unlikely to be accepted as the secrecy of election will not be maintained at the receiving end, sources said.
But, sources said, the meeting considered the option of sending the ballot paper after casting the vote through courier. At present, the facility of postal ballot is available for services voters but it is considered to be time- consuming. One of the options considered was sending ballot papers to services voters and NRIs electronically which could be filled and sent through a courier, the sources said.
It was felt that from the time of the last date of withdrawal of candidature to vote counting date, at least a fortnight is always available and a services voter or a NRI voter can courier his or her vote within that period, the sources said.
Sources said the meeting decided to find IT solution for safe and secure mode for sending votes. Others who attended the meeting were Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, Defence Secretary R K Mathur, Home Secretary Anil Goswami and representatives of Election Commission. On Monday, the Supreme Court had directed the central government to facilitate e-voting by NRI within eight weeks.
The government told the apex court that it has approved e-ballot voting for Indian passport holders abroad, recommended by the Election Commission in a report, and it would have the process in place after amending laws. E-ballot voting should be allowed at the earliest, the Supreme Court told the Centre, in heartening news for an estimated 11 million NRIs across the world.
In e-ballot voting, a blank postal ballot paper is emailed to the voter who has to then fill it and mail it by post to their constituency. Allowing NRIs to vote abroad is likely to make an impact in states like Kerala which has 40 lakh people abroad and votes next year for a new government.
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