Election Commission’s initiative to enfranchise migrant voters is a step in the right direction

Source– The post is based on the article “Election Commission’s initiative to enfranchise migrant voters is a step in the right direction” published in The Indian Express on 17th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Salient feature of Representation of People Act

Relevance– Issues related to electoral reforms

News– The article explains the issue of remote voting for the migrant population of the country.

What are the issues faced by migrants in enjoying their right to vote?

Migrant workers, especially circular or short-term migrants are some of the least represented groups in the voting process.

There is no deliberate denial of the right to vote for them. But, they lack access to vote. The Supreme Court, in a series of cases, has interpreted the freedom to access the vote as within the ambit of Article 19(1)(a).

One survey shows that only 48% voted in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the national average was 59.7 per cent.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, major sender states such as Bihar and UP had among the lowest voter turnout rates at 57.33 per cent and 59.21 per cent respectively. The national average was 67.4%.

What is the status of migrants in India?

According to the 2011 Census, the number of internal migrants stands at 450 million. 26% of the migration occurs inter-district within the same state, while 12% of the migration occurs inter-state.

Both official and independent experts admit that this number is underestimated. Short-term and circular migration could be 60-65 million migrants.

What are the reasons behind the lack of political representation for migrants?

The root cause of the migrant voters issue is that the individual’s right to vote is conditioned by a rather strict residency qualification.

In the survey report, it was found that “close to 60% of respondents had missed voting in elections at least once because they were away from home seeking livelihood options”.

According to a 2012 study, 78% of migrant voters have voter cards for their home constituency. Most cannot commute to their home states on polling day.

Many migrant voters may not be as intensively involved in the political affairs and interests in their host locations as they are in their home locations.

What is the way forward?

Section 60(c) of the RPA, 1951 empowers the Election Commission to notify classes of voters who are unable to vote in person at their constituencies because of physical or social circumstances. It should be in consultation with the government. Once notified, the voters are eligible for the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System.

EC should find a technological solution which is credible, accessible and acceptable to all stakeholders

What are the steps taken by ECI to ensure voting rights for migrants?

The Election Commission had earlier formed a “Committee of Officers on Domestic Migrants” to address this issue. The Committee’s report submitted in 2016 suggested a solution in the form of “remote voting”.

The Election Commission has now proposed the use of remote voting for migrant workers. A modified version of the existing model of M3 EVMs will be placed at remote polling stations.

The Electronic Corporation of India Ltd. has already developed a prototype of a Multi-constituency Remote EVM.

 

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