IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Re-enfranchise the forgotten voter

7th July, 2020 Editorial


- There is need for One nation One Voter Id.


- Election Commission of India has 91 crores registered voters.

- In 2019 General election, 67%, 61 crores voters voted.

- Among the left out 30 crores, ECI noted that 10% do not vote due to lack of interest in politics leaving out 20 crores.

- There are 3 crores registered Non-resident Indian (NRI) voters, out of them only 1 lakh have registered to vote and 25 lakh voted.

Different Model by ECI for voting:

- Physical voting by Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), which requires presence of the voters as well, registration to vote at the same place.

- Overseas Voters: Voters who are not resident in India but are citizen of India. He/She is allowed to vote in person at the polling station on production of your original passport. The government has brought in legislation in the previous Lok Sabha to enable voting through authorised proxies but it lapsed.

- Service Voters: It includes armed forces members, Police force members working outside state or employee of government of India.  Service voter can cast their vote either through postal ballot or through a proxy voter duly appointed by him and a service voter who opts to vote through a proxy is called Classified Service Voter.

Issue for migrant workers:

- Remaining voters not able to exercise their franchisie are migrant voters.

- In India, close to 13 crores people as per economic survey, 2017 are internal migrants.

- They lack the address of proof to register themselves as voters in city of residence.

- Many are seasonal migrants who are not able to cast their franchise.

- Migrant workers become quasi-disenfranchised, forgotten voters because they cannot afford to return home on election day to choose their representatives.

Affect on Migrant workers:

- They do not constitute a vote bank; hence, political parties do not care for their well-being.

- Political disenfranchisement has caused poor working conditions, lack of basic amenities, poor sanitation facilities, and low wage for them.

- It is a blot on Indian democracy, as further expansion of economy will further increase the migrant workers creating the issue of lower voter turnout.

- Lopsided verdict as it do not constitute the view of migrant workers.

- Generally, migrant workers have more exposure to the values of rationality, equality and women empowerment. Giving voter rights to them will make Indian politics more progressive.

- Their electoral exclusion exacerbates the social exclusion of India’s migrant workers.

- Not having voter rights are the violation of social contract of state.

- Migrant workers are also difficult to organise within the fold of conventional trade unions because of the diversity of employment contexts, spatial dispersion and a high degree of mobility.

Challenges in Giving voter rights to Migrant workers:

- Lack of clarity on the definition: How do you define a migrant worker or voter?

- What is the minimum number of days he should be working at a place to qualify as migrant worker?

- Arranging voting rights for such a large number of domestic logistical challenges as per several Ex ECI.

- Online voting is an option but it needs to be foolproof and without any hack.

- Many migrant workers have shifted out of their constituency long back, but continue to hold its voter ID. Their vote would be without proper local knowledge.

- Allowing Migrant workers to vote in a city where they have little political interest may compromise with the interest of local population. Generally, interest of local population is at loggerheads with the migrant workers. It may further revive the concept of son of soil.

Way Forward:

Recommendation of Tata Institute of Social Sciences:

- The “ordinarily resident” clause for enrolling as a voter should be treated as multi-local identity for internal migrants. EC says one has to be “ordinarily resident of the part or polling area of the constituency” where they want to be enrolled, which means one’s residential address is tied to the place of voting.

- Political parties should debate the suitability of multiple voting mechanisms like postal, proxy, absentee, early and e- voting.

- The short-term/seasonal migrants should be identified.

- The Contract Labour and the Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, needs effective implementation. The Act aims to regulate the employment and safeguard interests of inter-state migrant workers, and as such requires registration of establishments employing them. That would provide a database of migrants for improving voter participation.

- Voter ID and Aadhaar number should be merged to aid portability of voting rights.

- A common, single point, one-time voluntary registration system should be introduced at the destination place for migrant workers.

- EC should organize campaigns to raise awareness about voting rights among domestic migrants.


Election commission stand:

- EC is undertaking study of linking Aadhar Card with Voter Id card for universal voting.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/re-enfranchise-the-forgotten-voter/article31997848.ece