Election Commission sets up committee to allow migrants to vote

After the government’s green light to NRIs to cast their votes from abroad, the Election Commission has set up a committee of senior officers to consider whether electoral laws can be changed to empower voters who have migrated to other States within the country.

The poll body is considering whether inter-State migrant voters could retain their names on the electoral rolls of their native places, and also, if they could cast their votes through mechanisms such as postal ballot.

Under the present law, a person can be enrolled only at the place he is residing. A migrant has to get himself enrolled in the new place.

A relaxation of this law would prove beneficial to cadre-based parties in keeping their vote bank intact, especially in States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu where many youths are migrating to other States for jobs.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the poll body said the committee was set up despite scepticism about the need to amend the Representation of the People Act. The poll body was responding to a notice issued by the Supreme Court on January 12, 2015, on a plea made by UAE-based doctor Shamsheer V.P., represented by senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Haris Beeran, demanding electoral reforms to allow inter-State migrants the voting privileges like postal ballot, which is accorded to government servants.

The commission said a person who migrated can be considered “ordinarily resident” in his new place even without owning or possessing a house there. It said the law was reasonable as it is now.

The application filed by Dr. Shamsheer sought the same voting privileges accorded to government servants under Section 20(8) (d) of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, read with Section 60(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, which allowed them to vote via postal ballot upon the consent of the Election Commission.

Relaxation of the present law will benefit parties to keep vote bank intact

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