All about the vote-from-home facility in the Lok Sabha elections | Explained 

Who is eligible to vote from home in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections? What is the procedure?

March 23, 2024 12:05 pm | Updated April 18, 2024 02:22 pm IST

File photo: Officials collecting a postal ballot from an aged voter in Pappanaickenpalayam, Coimbatore in 2021. Image for representational purpose only.

File photo: Officials collecting a postal ballot from an aged voter in Pappanaickenpalayam, Coimbatore in 2021. Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The story so far: Preparations are under way for India’s “celebration of democracy,” the Election Commission said recently while announcing the seven-phase poll dates for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The “mammoth exercise” will set in motionthe “world’s largest electoral movement of man and material.” To make the process inclusive and accessible, the ECI has, for the first time in the history of the Lok Sabha elections, extended its ‘vote-from-home’ facility to Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and senior citizens aged 85 and above. This move would allow more than 85 lakh senior citizens and 88.4 lakh persons with disabilities to cast their votes through postal ballots.

Watch | What is the vote-from-home facility and who can apply? | Lok Sabha polls 2024

“This is a great initiative, especially for voters with disabilities and for those who have high support needs,” says Dr. Satendra Singh, a doctor and disability justice activist. While well-intentioned and promising, the policy may have to solve for awareness gaps and procedural snarls, such as filing forms in person.

Who is eligible?

Age and disability inform the voting experience. Efforts to make participation inclusive thus far have been contained to the polling site, with a focus on setting up ramps, separate queues, wheelchairs and parking facilities. The postal ballot-home voting facility was amended to include senior citizens and PwD candidates; the benchmark disability should be not less than 40% of the specified disability as certified by the concerned certifying authority.

“Generally the tendency has been that the senior citizens want to participate in the process and walk to the booth. But this time, we have given them options to vote in their homes,” Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said. Those who opt for VfH this year are not eligible to vote directly at the polling station on polling day.

Also Read: Citizens aged above 85 years and people with over 40% disability in Andhra Pradesh can vote from home

The scheme is also “useful” as senior voters may not prefer to step out during the summer heat, an Andhra Pradesh official told The Hindu this week. The Lok Sabha elections will be held between April 19 and June 1, when spells of heatwaves are likely overtake most parts of the country.

The VfH facility was previously tried out during Assembly elections in select regions, allowing PwD, senior citizens and people affected by COVID-19 to vote from home. The ECI this year has, however, increased the upper age limit of elderly voters, from 80 to 85 years, a somewhat arbitrary change in threshold, Dr. Singh notes. In the past 11 Assembly elections, the scheme has helped almost 3.30 lakh people with disabilities and electors above 80 years, according to a Hindustan Times report.

The ECI also extended the postal ballot option to media personnel covering ‘polling day activities’ who have authorisation letters from the Election Commission, and those part of essential services such as metros, railways and health care. The option is also open for service voters, such as personnel of the armed forces posted away from their hometowns, Central Armed Police Forces personnel deployed away from home, Central and State police personnel on election duty, and polling personnel and embassy staff on postings.

File photo: Election officials carrying the postal ballot boxes door-to-door to get postal votes from people aged above 80 in 2021.

File photo: Election officials carrying the postal ballot boxes door-to-door to get postal votes from people aged above 80 in 2021. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

How to avail the vote-from-home facility?

Key to the process is Form 12D, which is a letter informing the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) that the person may not be in a position to go to the polling station to vote. The form can be downloaded online from the ECI website or collected from the office of the representative district officer of a parliamentary constituency. Distribution of Form 12D has already started in Tamil Nadu districts, as the State heads to the national polls on April 19. The form has to be filled and submitted within five days of notification of the polling date. This is a barrier, according to Dr. Singh — five days are “too short a notice period” to allow people to get the documentation in order. Moreover, electors are required to deposit the form to the Booth Level Officers (BLO) or the ARO, a “problematic” requirement for people with disabilities. “Ideally, if people with disability have the option to vote from home, they should be allowed to submit this form online too,” he says.

Photo Credit: The Hindu Graphics team

Photo Credit: The Hindu Graphics team

Once filed, two polling officials, accompanied by a videographer and a security person, will visit the elector’s home and oversee the postal ballot voting process. The voter will receive an intimation about the date and approximate time of visit via SMS or through post. The home voting option will be attempted twice. The polling team will schedule a second visit if the elector fails to be at the given address during the first visit. If the voter is absent on the second visit, “a further visit will not be entertained.” The voter will subsequently be ineligible to vote both at polling booths or through the home voting scheme.

During the visit, the polling team is expected to follow protocol under the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. Each team of poll officers is required to (a) issue postal ballot to each of the Absentee Voters assigned to it, (b) brief the elector about the procedure to be followed for voting through postal ballot, (c) make sure that the elector votes without anyone influencing his/her choice, and ensuring the secrecy of voting, all activities at the address of the elector concerned, according to a November 2022 communique for the Vote-from-home facility.

People with blindness or physical infirmity are allowed to nominate a companion and take their assistance while home voting. The person can act as a companion of only one elector, is required to give a declaration in a form prescribed by the ECI, and “keep the vote secret.”

Dr. Singh foresees some logistical hiccups, in coordinating requests, scheduling and moving paraphernalia around. Moreover, “do we have the machinery to fulfill this mammoth task?” he asks. The scheme will also need a “massive level of awareness generation,” both among voters and polling officers, to attune the facilities to people’s needs. An Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission official told The Hindu this week that awareness drives will be conducted on multiple platforms. “As this is the first time, we are currently putting extra efforts to make people aware of it,” he said. The Election Commission has also launched a Voter’s Guide, outlining the provisions and procedural details available to PwDs and senior citizens.

In the Karnataka Assembly Elections last year, almost one lakh PwD and older electors, out of the total 18 lakh, had used the home voting postal ballot method. However, many complained of low awareness about the method, and that no election officer visited them to provide the forms, The Hindu reported.

The missing visits from supervisors and Booth Level Officers (BLOs) are not an aberration, says Dr. Singh, pointing out that these visits “generally don’t happen.” One reason is that not all people with disabilities are mapped under the right category, thus excluding them from these participatory efforts. A Parliamentary Standing Committee last year censured the Union Government for failing to accurately estimate the current population of Persons with Disabilities living in the country.

What else has the EC done for inclusive elections?

The government is also experimenting with remote voting for domestic migrants, according to a December 2022 press release. The Multi Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) would allow people who migrate within the country for employment and opportunity (almost 450 million, as per the latest 2011 census) to vote for their home constituencies from remote locations. Internal migrants face a string of challenges due to the transient nature of their life and livelihood. Many are reluctant to get themselves enrolled multiple times, unwilling to get names deleted from electoral roll of home constituencies and facing an emotional disconnect with the places they migrate to. If implemented, “it can lead to a social transformation for the migrants and connect with their roots,” the government said.

Should a senior citizen or a person with disability choose to go to the booth, the ECI has mandated officials to provide Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like ramps, wheelchairs, first aid and toilets at polling stations. Measures, new and old, are being highlighted, including provision of free transportation on poll day, appointment of State and District PwD icons, and Braille-enabled EVMs and EPICs.

Dr. Singh says, “Most people will try and participate in the main elections on the polling day...we want to feel included in the community and the society,” and enjoy the “mahaul of democracy” at the polling booth.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.