GUWAHATI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has undertaken a slew of initiatives in order to ensure that the electors who are unable to come to polling booths (absentee voters) are able to participate in the electoral process.
The category of absentee voters includes persons with disabilities (PwD), senior citizens, persons employed in essential services e.g., railways, state transport, and aviation, etc.
This time, ECI has for the first time introduced a postal ballot facility for senior citizens (above 80 years), persons with disabilities/differently-abled, persons employed in essential services, and COVID positive/suspects in quarantine (home and institutional).
The traditional users of the postal ballots are service voters, special voters, voters on election duty, notified voters, and electors subjected to preventive detention under any law.
How to Apply for Postal Ballot Facility?
The process for applying for the postal ballot has been simplified for the absentee voters as listed below:
Absentee voters wishing to vote by postal ballot will have to make an application to the Returning Officer (RO) in Form-12D of the concerned constituency.
Application Form-12D should be accompanied by a copy of the certificate/instructions which shows that the applicant falls under the absentee category.
For instance, in case the elector falls under PwD category, he/she along with the application should submit a copy of the benchmark disability certificate specified by the concerned government authority, under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
For Covid-19 suspect or affected persons who opt for Postal Ballot, he/she needs to make a request to the RO along with a medical certificate. On being satisfied, the RO will facilitate the same to such electors.
Such applications by electors availing postal ballot should reach to the RO during the period from the date of announcement of election to five (5) days following the date of notification of the election concerned.
In this regard, it may be mentioned that the DEOs across the state have already rolled out a systematic process to reach out to the newly added category of electors.
Distribution of Form 12D house to house by Booth Level Officer (BLO) to electors availing postal ballot and collection of acknowledgments from them.
If an elector is not available, BLO will share his/her contact details and revisit to collect them within 5 days of notification.
Collection of applications from electors availing postal ballot by BLO will be done within 5 days of notification and the same will be submitted to the concerned RO.
RO shall verify and ensure that the electoral particulars of the applicants given in the form I2-D are correct with reference to the existing electoral roll.
Postal ballots will be issued to only those applicants whose particulars with reference to the electoral roll have been found to be correct.
The RO shall ensure that the electors who have been issued postal ballot is not allowed to vote at the polling station.
The RO shall share a list of all such PwD and 80+ electors, whose applications in Form 12D for availing postal ballot facility have been approved by him, with the contesting candidates of recognized political parties in printed hard copy.
The contesting candidates will be informed about the schedule of visits for delivery and collection of postal ballots of the above-mentioned categories. If they desire, they may depute their authorized representatives with prior intimation to RO to watch the process.
Police security cover and videography of proceedings and collection of postal ballots will be done for free and fair conduct of the process.
PPE kit shall be provided to those officers collecting postal ballots from COVID-19 suspect or affected voters.
Visits by teams of poll officers to collect the marked postal ballot should be planned in such a way that the same is completed one day prior to the date fixed for a poll in the constituency.