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Bihar may allow NRIs to cast their votes in Assembly polls, Bihar assembly election, Assembly election 2015, Bihar polls

Election 2015: Bihar may allow NRIs to cast their votes in Assembly polls

Bihar Election 2015

NEW DELHI: Bihar polls, due late this year, could create history irrespective of its electoral outcome — if the government and poll panel were to have their way, the state will become the first to allow non-resident Indians to cast their vote in assembly elections from overseas.

The Election Commission (EC) is working closely with the law ministry on a pilot project to facilitate nonresident Indian (NRI) voting in the upcoming polls through either proxy (read nominee) or e-postal ballot.
According to sources privy to the joint effort, the poll panel is pushing the government to effect necessary amendments in the Representation of People Act latest by the monsoon session of Parliament, so that the pilot can be tested in Bihar elections. The EC will have to constitute a new assembly in Bihar before November 29.

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There are about 1,000 NRIs registered as voters in Bihar. The EC is yet to decide whether the pilot will cover the whole of Bihar or will be limited to a few constituencies. "We can decide that once the amendments come through," said an official requesting anonymity. If found successful here, the EC will then scale up this experiment to other state elections and finally cover the whole country during the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Currently, voters residing abroad can only poll in their respective constituencies. This regulation is seen as restrictive as only a few thousand Indians living overseas have registered as voters, the maximum being from Kerala. Of these, barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise.
Under the proxy option, proposed by the EC and subsequently accepted by the law ministry, an NRI will be able to cast vote through a nominee residing in India. In the second option, the poll panel will upload the ballot paper online, which can be accessed by a registered NRI voter through a secure password. Once downloaded and printed, the NRI can then mark his or her preferred candidate on the ballot paper. The voter will then have to self-attest the ballot paper and send it back to the returning officer by snail mail within a stipulated period.
The EC has constituted a technical committee headed by Rajat Moona of C-DAC, the government's research and development arm in advanced computing, and comprising other technical experts, to develop a software that will allow the commission to dispatch the ballot paper to NRI voters online.

The software, EC officials told ET, is "almost ready" and currently undergoing a "security audit". This comes in the wake of the Centre accepting the poll panel's recommendations on NRI voting, which were submitted to the Supreme Court early this year.
According to rough estimates, there are about one crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh could easily be of eligible voting age. They could hold considerable sway in election results, especially in states such as Punjab, Gujarat and Kerala, where a number of expats hail from.

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