Business Standard

Postal ballots look to stamp their voice in Phase 1 of polls

Nearly 3 mn voters cast ballots by post in the 2019 elections

- SAMREEN WANI Mumbai, 10 April

The number of postal ballots cast has been rising in recent Lok Sabha (LS) elections.

The latest state elections show a higher share of postal ballots, according to an analysis of Election Commission of India data.

Close to 3 million voters cast their ballots by post in the 2019 LS elections, which accounted for 0.5 per cent of the total votes polled.

The proportion of postal votes polled in the general elections has gradually risen since 2009, when fewer than 1 million postal votes were cast. The share at the time was 0.2 per cent. Some of the increase is attributed to electronic postal voting.

A government statement noted that voter turnout was 60.14 per cent using the new system in 2019. Service voter turnout in 2014 was only around 4 per cent.

About three-fourths of these postal ballots came from just 11 states. Over 11 per cent of postal ballots were cast from Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, followed by 10.3 per cent from Andhra Pradesh.

In comparison, 9.7 per cent of the postal ballots were cast from Maharashtr­a, followed by Tamil Nadu at 8.3 per cent, Rajasthan at 7.9 per cent, and Gujarat at 7 per cent.

Meanwhile, between 3 per cent and 6 per cent of the total postal ballots came from Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala.

As many as 1.7 million postal votes were cast in the nine states that had their Assembly elections in 2023, accounting for about 1 per cent of the total number of votes cast.

However, in some states like Tripura, the share of the postal ballot was at 3 per cent, followed by Mizoram at 2.5 per cent, Nagaland at 2.1 per cent, and Meghalaya at 2 per cent.

Postal voting in Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisga­rh was less than 1 per cent.

The postal ballot is available to only a select category of voters. Voters belonging to the armed forces, those on election duty, those under preventive detention, absentee voters, mediaperso­ns covering elections, and those in essential services can mail in their votes if they are unable to physically cast their vote at the polling station.

The Indian election process utilises electronic­ally transmitte­d postal ballots for this purpose.

Postal ballot voting is already underway for the first phase of the 2024 LS elections. The Election Commission has extended the option of the postal ballot to senior citizens aged above 85 years and for persons with disabiliti­es, for the first time this year.

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