The number of service voters registered on the electoral rolls in the State has seen a decline of 27.16% from the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The final publication of the last part of the electoral rolls for service voters was done on January 31.
While 38,637 service voters were in the electoral rolls during 2014, the number has come down to 28,140 after the final publication. In the 2013 Assembly elections, there were 33,867 service voters. However, service voter registration will continue, according to the Election Commission. The last part of the full electoral roll, which is published only in English, will have the list of service voters.
Sources say that though 54,000 service voter applications were received, the final list has only 28,140 voters. Many applications may have been wait-listed for want of information, while a few may not have been accepted, they said.
According to sources, a de novo list or a list drawn afresh for service electors has been notified, and the onus of registration is on defence personnel. “The final published list will be a true representation of how many service voters have registered. The number may have shrunk owing to death, retirement or transfer. Sometimes, service personnel also choose to register in the constituency where they are posted... all of which may have brought down the number,” a source said.
Meanwhile, for the first time, service voters from Karnataka will be receiving the postal ballot transmitted to them electronically, cutting down the time of the process. While in the past it would take 25 to 30 days for personnel to receive the ballot sent through the Army Postal Service and return the same to their respective constituency, with e-ballot the time will be reduced to seven days or so.
According to sources, e-ballot was introduced by the Election Commission of India for the first time in 2017 during the elections to Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand, and Punjab. “The encrypted message is sent in an email, which the personnel can download after generating a password. Printouts can be taken where vote preference can be indicated and sent back through registered post,” a source said.
According to Wg. Cdr. G.B. Athri (retd), the postal ballot rarely reached the election officer in time because of how cumbersome the process was. “E-ballot may have been introduced now for quick completion of the process, but the service electoral rolls remain an issue even now. The Election Commission should take the responsibility of maintaining the service voter rolls instead of putting the onus on servicemen to register themselves. Servicemen should not be robbed of their democratic rights,” he said.
Classified service voter
The Representation of People Act, 1950, while making provision for postal ballot, also makes a provision for proxy voting on behalf of the service voter by a ‘classified service voter’. However, proxy voting is available only to a member of the armed forces or members of a force to which the Army Act, 1950 is applicable. The proxy has to be a resident of the constituency. While he need not be a voter, he should not be disqualified to be registered as voter.