Home ballots facility in Delhi and Haryana met with tepid response

Published - May 17, 2024 01:15 am IST - New Delhi

The Election Commission of India’s home voting facility kicked off in Delhi and Haryana on Thursday, ahead of polling day on May 25. However, the facility, which allows senior citizens above 85 and those with over 40% disability to cast their vote from their residence, did not see as many takers as expected.

Haryana Chief Electoral Officer Anurag Agarwal told The Hindu that the response to the initiative was “not encouraging”, given that most of the elderly and disabled voters opted to cast their votes at electoral booths rather than from home.

“Though I don’t have absolute numbers, only about 5% of eligible voters opted for home voting. Booth Level Officers had, however, distributed the relevant forms to all those eligible for the facility,” he said.

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer P. Krishnamurthy added that many saw the home voting facility as just an extra option, and many may go and vote in person, for which 8,000 volunteers and 4,000 wheelchairs have been stationed at polling booths.

Mr. Agarwal attributed the tepid response to the culture of “group voting” in Haryana, where entire families go to polling booths as a unit to exercise their franchise, as well as the pick-and-drop facility being provided to voters by the authorities.

“Though I have not spoken to these voters, they may want to experience the excitement of actually going to the booth and casting their vote on an EVM instead of posting their ballot from home,” he said.

In line with the State-wide trend, just over 2% of eligible voters in the Gurgaon Lok Sabha constituency, which has the highest number of 25 lakh registered voters in Haryana, opted for home voting. Gurgaon has 35,559 voters over the age of 85, and 15,231 persons with more than 40% disability, but only 1,022 opted to vote from home. The local administration has constituted 80 teams to collect these voters’ postal ballots.

“The initiative is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive electoral environment and enabling senior citizens and disabled persons to exercise their right to vote in a safe, dignified and accessible manner,” Mr. Krishnamurthy said.

Veteran BJP leader V.K. Malhotra, 92, was one of the senior citizens who posted his ballot from New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency. Praising the initiative, he said, “I have been a proud voter in all elections since I became eligible and have never missed the democratic process.”

“This home facility to vote gave me an opportunity to ensure that I did not miss this poll either, considering that I have some problems in walking now. This unique feature strengthens the health of democracy by providing the opportunity to vote in the comfort of one’s home and ensures that no voter is left behind,” he added, appealing to all eligible voters to avail of the facility.

The home voting facility will be available until May 24 for all those who have signed up for it.

The process of voting from home takes place with the involvement of a full contingent of polling staff and security personnel with the secrecy of voting diligently maintained, officials of the Chief Election Commission said.

“A dedicated team of polling officials and security personnel will visit the voter’s residence to collect their votes, ensuring voters are notified in advance to prepare for the visit. SMS notifications will also be sent to inform the voters about the scheduled home voting to further enhance convenience and accessibility. The entire process will be videographed to ensure transparency,” officials added.

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