Tamil Nadu

‘Permit those on poll duty to cast votes on EVMs’

The Madras High Court has granted the Election Commission of India (ECI) time till Monday to respond to a plea made by a government schoolteachers’ association seeking permission for all those on election duty to cast their votes on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), since past experience had shown that the postal ballot system was not effective enough.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy accepted a request made by senior counsel G. Rajagopalan, representing the ECI, to grant him time till Monday to get instructions from the Commission.

Senior counsel R. Viduthalai, representing Tamil Nadu High-Higher Secondary Graduate Teachers’ Association, contended that most of the government servants on election duty do not get to cast their votes properly through the postal ballot system. Such failure goes against the objective of the ECI to ensure that no voter gets left behind and that there should be very high percentage of polling. In an affidavit, the association said the government servants on election duty were allowed to vote through EVMs, after furnishing their Election Duty Cards (EDCs), only if they had been deputed in a polling booth situated within their Assembly constituency on the day of the election. Otherwise, they would have to cast their votes only through postal ballots.

Often, postal ballot facility was denied to officials on poll duty because of a faulty database, the association alleged. It claimed that out of 4,35,003 officials deputed on election duty during the 2019 parliamentary polls, only 3,97,291 were issued with postal ballots. Therefore, at the first instance, 37,712 voters were denied the opportunity of exercising their franchise, it added.

It went on to point out that even among those who were issued postal ballots, only 2,23,527 exercised their franchise in 2019 because many found it difficult, at the eleventh hour, to go in search of gazetted officers to get the ballot papers attested, especially when they had been entrusted with the task of reaching the polling stations with the EVMs and other apparatus required for polling.

To buttress its submission, the association also stated that 24,912 postal votes were declared invalid in 2019 due to reasons such as absence of attestation by a gazetted officer. “Therefore, the votes of 62,624 voters on election duty (about 15% of civil staff on election duty) were wasted in the course of the election exercise,” association president A. Mayavan lamented.

He brought to the notice of the court that 23,319 out of 1,29,413 postal votes polled in the 2011 Assembly election, and 25,883 out of 3,30,380 postal votes polled in the 2016 Assembly election, had been declared invalid. To avoid such anomalies, he insisted that all voters on election duty must be allowed to vote through EVMs, at least three days prior to the actual day of polling.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 8:51:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/permit-those-on-poll-duty-to-cast-votes-on-evms/article33984211.ece

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