NEWS
25/01/2019 11:13 AM IST | Updated 11/03/2019 8:57 AM IST

Election 2019 Dates Are Out — Can You Vote By Postal Ballot If You Aren't Living At Home?

Millions of Indians are unable to vote because they live in a different place from where they are registered to vote.

vectomart via Getty Images

Voting for the 2019 elections begins on 11 April. Do you live away from home, where you are registered to vote? Then it’s unlikely that you will be able to vote unless you travel to where your vote is registered. 

This year’s Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases across India, ending on 19 May.

While India does have a system in place for postal ballots, it is restricted to certain categories of people. 

Who can cast votes through postal ballots?

According to the Election Commission (EC) of India website, the following categories of voters can cast votes through a postal ballot: 

The EC website suggests that members of the armed forces like the Army, Navy and Air Force, members of the armed police force of a state who are serving outside the state, people employed under the Government of India in a post outside India, like Ambassadors and High Commissioners and their staff, are allowed to vote through the postal ballot. 

However, these people can only vote through postal ballots and not in person in a polling booth. 

The “wives” of the above mentioned voters are also allowed to vote through postal ballots. 

Voters on election duty like a polling agents, polling officers, presiding officers or other public servants are allowed to vote through postal ballots if they are unable to vote at the polling station where they are entitled to vote. 

Under the ‘notified voters’ category, anyone notified by the EC, in consultation with the government to give their vote by postal ballot and not in any other manner, can cast their votes through postal ballots. 

While prisoners are not allowed to vote, people under preventive detention can cast their votes through postal ballots as well. 

What can people who have moved away from the place of their registered votes do?

As of now, there is no provision for voters who have migrated inside the country to cast their votes through postal ballots. If you want to vote in the place you currently stay, you will have to fill up a new voter registration form and ask for your name to be deleted from the old list. 

Praveena Bhagwat via Getty Images

Can NRIs vote through postal ballots? 

While NRIs are allowed to register as voters from the constituency of their “ordinary residence” (the address for which you have proof like passport, ration card and so on), they will have to vote in person from a polling booth. They are also not allowed to vote through postal ballots. 

In August, the Lok Sabha passed a bill that proposes to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to enable overseas electors to appoint proxies to cast their votes in elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. It is now pending in the Rajya Sabha. 

Here’s how an NRI can enrol to cast their vote in India. 

No votes for migrants inside India

In India today, when millions are moving away from their home states in pursuit of jobs and education, not having a postal ballot option for migrant voters has become an issue. 

The Times of India has begun a campaign to called ‘Lost Votes’ because a significant chunk of people, who are registered as voters, did not cast their votes because they were unable to travel back in time for the election. 

In a series of stories being run by the daily, it reported, “In the 2014 general elections, 280 million Indians who had a vote — over 18 years of age and with their names in the electoral rolls — did not vote.” 

The report says while popular perception is that people don’t care enough to vote, census data shows that many of them are migrants who are unable to go back to their home towns to vote.