• With more than 70 lakh electors above 65 years of age, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided against extending postal ballots to them in the upcoming Bihar Assembly election due to the logistical challenges posed.
• Earlier, the ECI had recommended extending the postal ballot facility to electors over 65 years as the age group had been termed most vulnerable to COVID-19.
• subsequently, the Law Ministry notified the change to the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, extending the facility to electors above 65 years, as opposed to the existing provision for above 80 years.
• However, now ECI announced that it would not be extending the facility to electors of age 65 and above due to logistical, staff and safety protocol-related constraints.
• Through this facility, a voter can cast her vote remotely by recording her preference on the ballot paper and sending it back to the election officer before counting.
• Section 60 in The Representation of the People Act, 1951 provides for any person to be given the postal facility by the ECI in consultation with the government.
Who can avail this facility?
• A restricted set of voters can exercise postal voting.
• Members of the armed forces like the Army, Navy and Air Force, members of the armed police force of a state (serving outside the state), government employees posted outside India and their spouses are entitled to vote only by post. Voters under preventive detention can also vote only by post.
• Special voters such as the President of India, Vice President, Governors, Union Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House and government officers on poll duty have the option to vote by post. But they have to apply through a prescribed form to avail this facility.
• Recently, the Law Ministry, introduced a new category of ‘absentee voters’, who can now also opt for postal voting. These are voters employed in essential services and unable to cast their vote due to their service conditions. Currently, officials of the DMRC, Northern Railway Services and media persons are notified as absentee voters.
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Postal ballots
Mains level: Criteria for availing Postal voting