The Indian General Election of 2019 witnessed the largest voter turnout in the history of elections at 67.4%. The election also focused on providing accessibility to voters, innovative measures to provide transport facilities to the voters with special needs. The Election Commission of India (ECI) also brought about the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation Program (SVEEP), which helped in spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India. The Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) was also used for the first time to cast postal ballots, by the service voters. Hence, the ECI has been working tirelessly to improve the infrastructure of conduction elections in India, therefore in furtherance of the same, a working group was constituted in July 2019 which recently came out with its report and recommendations.
This blog post will analyze the report and will additionally provide more recommendations which can be used to make elections in India more efficient.
Recommendations of the Working Group to the ECI
The Working Group was constituted of various Chief Electoral Officers and was headed by Secretary-General/ Sr. Deputy Election Commissioner from the ECI. These officials undertook the study of related provisions from other election management bodies of the globe and collated such inputs in the existing framework to come up with the recommendations. A few important recommendations are analyzed below:
- Single simplified Form for all services to voters
Presently the voters need to fill and submit various forms for specific services, such as Form 6 for voter registration, Form 8 for shifting residency etc. The need for a simple unified form is required so that the confusion created by multiple forms is done away with. This will also create the system more efficient and robust.
- Door-Step electoral Services to the Senior Citizens (80+) and Persons with Disability
The ECI is exploring the possibility of doorstep delivery of electoral services to senior citizens over 80 years and people with special needs. This is a welcome step as it will help those in the category who are staying alone and don’t have the means to reach the local polling booth.
- Online registration of prospective voters at the age of 17 years
The transition of a young citizen to a responsible voter is also a facet of democracy and hence, the ECI should register the prospective voters at their respective school/college at the age of 17 so that no young citizen is left behind. Such a framework is required and is definitely a welcome step as it will be an effective and efficient step as the young citizens will get registered in their respective schools.
- Online Nominations
The candidates willing to contest the elections are supposed to file the nomination in person before the concerned Returning Officer. This process can be simplified by making the whole process online. This will avoid long queues and will make the process faster and simpler.
The Working Group recommendations are certainly a welcome step which has kept in mind the needs of the elderly and the young citizens as well as the problems which a candidate faces.
However, some points which need careful consideration are listed as follows:
- The highest level of importance needs to be given to the cleansing process of the electoral rolls, as the same is the first step in ensuring that the right person appears in the electoral rolls at the right place and duplicity is removed. Further, once the said is done, only then can other forward-looking initiatives like e-voting, Electronic Voter ID Card etc can actually take place. Hence, the said process of amendment in the electoral rolls is made very simple and accessible to one and all.
- Creating an online Voter ID Card similar to the one like E-AADHAR will prove to be immensely beneficial for the public at large. Once, the said is done, can we move ahead onto the next step of creating a platform for e-voting from anywhere in the globe.
- Creating an online e-voting platform will certainly be useful for the large floating population of this nation. There might be security and management issues of the said platform, but with the speed of emerging technologies, it can be definitely be made possible in the next few years itself.
- Ensuring a close watch on Social Media Platforms will be required in future elections as there is hardly any doubt regarding the influencing potential said platforms hold, among the masses and hence, the same restrictions like the print media (48 Hours) needs to be applied on the same along with the mandate of adding the expenses made on such Social Media Platforms (as nowadays various consultative agencies are been hired by the candidates and parties alike, to create a social media environment conducive for their image building and thereby garnering votes) to the expenditure of the candidates/parties.
- In the absence of having no cap on the election expenditure of the political parties, the said loophole is certainly helping the large parties in assisting their candidates and thereby, creates a skewed competition among candidates. Hence, ensuring a cap on the political parties in relation to the number of candidates fielded on their tickets will help arrest the phenomenon of the high expenditure-based election campaign of political parties. Calculation of the said expenditure of the parties and then dividing the same among their candidates will although be a very complex process, however, the time has now come for making a start on the said subject and thereafter, evolving the strategies to fight this menace.
There is hardly any doubt that the Indian electoral system is hailed as an institute of learning and inspiration by global election management institutes/machineries. Certainly, the ECI has come a long way in shaping itself in responding to the emerging challenges and thereby, is able to extract immense respect among the masses of this nation. The recommendations of the Working Group will certainly help the existing framework of conducting elections in India.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Utkarsh is a fourth-year student at the National Law University Odisha, Cuttack. He holds a diploma in International Arbitration from the University of Vienna. He resides in Delhi and is a frequent traveller.