The Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Germany, France and South Africa will be able to cast their votes through e-ballots in the first phase of opening the facility to vote for non-resident Indians. The Indians residing in the Gulf have to wait more to exercise their franchise via postal votes.
"The Election Commission (EC) held discussions with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) last week on the implementation of postal voting from overseas", reported the Indian Express. The EC proposed that the embassy's officials in the respective countries will download the ballot paper and allot it to the voters. The NRI voters can then cast their votes and submit it in a sealed envelope to the embassy along with a self-attested form.
MEA agreed to this given that the EC take responsibility to facilitate the manpower for the postal voting system. The EC notified the readiness to execute the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) to voters abroad for the upcoming elections in states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Assam and West Bengal.
The ETPBS voting services are currently made available to only service-holders. In order to develop this facility for NRI electors, the central government has to amend the conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
A bill in this connection was passed last year to extend voting services to Indians out of the country, which got lapsed following the suspension of the 16th Lok Sabha.
A committee was formed by the EC after the 14th Lok Sabha elections to evaluate mainly three voting options – postal votes, voting at an Indian mission abroad and online voting overseas, after it received several petitions. However, the committee rejected the proposal of online voting as it would compromise 'secrecyof voting'; it also shot down voting at Indian missions abroad for want of adequate resources. As per the panel's final analysis, the NRIs are to be granted ETPBS options other than voting in person.