EC decides not to extend postal ballot facility to citizens above 65 years in Bihar polls
In a notification, it said that specially-abled voters, those above 80 years, and those in essential services and COVID-19 positive patients in quarantine, can vote by postal ballot
The Election Commission of India on Thursday decided not to extend postal ballot facility to citizens above 65 yrs of age in Bihar and other impending by-polls.
In a notification issued by the poll panel, it said that specially-abled voters, who are above 80 years, and those in essential services and the COVID-19 positive patients in home/institutional quarantine, can vote by postal ballot.
"The age limit for voters to can opt for postal ballot in Lok Sabha and assembly polls had been reduced to 65. However, electors who are above 80 years of age, PwD Voters, the electors engaged in essential services and voters who are COVID-19 positive/suspect in quarantine (home/institutional) can opt for postal ballot in Bihar assembly elections and other by-polls", the Election Commission said.
The Election Commission cited constraints of logistics, manpower and safety protocols of COVID-19 as reasons for not extending the postal ballot facility for voters above 65 years.
Earlier, the EC had extended postal ballot facility for electors above the age of 65 years and COVID-19 patients under home or institutional quarantine.
The decision comes ahead of Bihar assembly election which is expected to take place somewhere between October and November. So far, the postal ballot facility has been reserved only for people over the age of 80 and those people in essential services who are not posted in their home state.
Here is the press note released by the Election Commission:
Subject: Commission decides not to extend the facility of postal ballot to electors above 65 years of age in General Assembly Elections in Bihar and by elections due in near future in view of constraints of logistics, manpower and safety protocols of Covid-19
In view of COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown guidelines have been issued in the country from time to time by National Disaster Management Authority, under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. In the guideline dated 17.05.2020, issued by Union Home Secretary and Chairperson National Executive Committee, constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, it has been specified vide para 7 that,
“Protection of vulnerable persons: Persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, shall stay at home, except for essential and health purposes.”
Simultaneously, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare prescribed detailed procedure of quarantine (Home/Institutional) for COVID-19 positive/suspect persons vide its instructions dated 05.04.2020 and 18.05.2020.
2. Considering this extraordinary situation, Commission had recommended extension of optional postal ballot facilities to voters above 65 years in order to minimize their vulnerability and exposure at the Polling stations and to Covid positive voters and voters under quarantine so that they are not deprived of their voting rights. On the recommendation of the Commission, Ministry of Law & Justice notified the amended rules accordingly on 19.06.2020. However, before implementing this enabling provision, due notification is issued by the Commission, under section 60(c) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 at the time of election. Before implementing these enabling provisions, Commission continually assesses the field situation and logistics of operationalization.
3. Commission has been constantly monitoring the electoral preparedness for the coming by-elections and General elections of Assembly in Bihar, in view of this unprecedented environment. Commission has already limited the number of electors to one thousand for each polling station for ease of voting, especially for elderly and vulnerable sections of electors, in COVID-19 situations. In view of this, the State is creating additional 34,000 (approximately) polling stations (45% more), which will increase the total number of polling stations to around 1,06,000. This would entail formidable logistical challenges of mobilizing 1.8 lakh more polling personnel and other additional resources including requirement of much larger number of vehicles in the State of Bihar. Similar challenges would be there for the coming by-elections also.
4. Considering all these issues, challenges and constraints and in view of the decision to limit the number of electors at each polling station to 1000, Commission has decided not to issue the notification to extend the facility of postal ballot to the electors above 65 years of age in the coming General Elections in Bihar and by- elections due in the near future. However, facility of optional postal ballot to electors who are above 80 years of age, PwD Voters, the electors engaged in essential services and voters who are COVID-19 positive/suspect in quarantine (home/institutional) will be extended in these elections.