With the 2019 general election approaching, the Election Commission (EC) of India is set to turn its sights to voters abroad. According to the provisions of Section 20A of the Representation of People Act, 1950, a non-resident Indian (NRI) settled in a foreign land can become an elector in the electoral roll in India.
In new developments regarding voting rights for NRIs, Election Commissioner of India Sunil Arora questioned the Punjab election commission as to why the number of NRI electors in the state was only 314.
The election commissioner reviewed various facets of the electoral machinery with the Punjab Chief Electoral officer (CEO), S K Raju, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
This issue would be reviewed at the Election Commission of India (ECI) level after two months, Arora said. Nobody would believe that this number can be so low in a state like Punjab, which has an extensive Indian diaspora in various parts of the world, he added.
Arora asked officials to ensure a large scale awareness drive for ethical voting, besides ensuring registration of each and every eligible person as a voter. The election commissioner also directed officials to organise meetings with block level officers to further spread the message of ECI at the bottom level.
NRIs are eligible to be registered as voters in their home constituency mentioned in their passport if they remain citizens of India and have not acquired citizenship of any other country. They can register as NRI voters as long as they satisfy the criteria for being an elector and are not currently residing in India.
To register, a prospective voter must file an application in the prescribed Form 6A before the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO)/Assistant Electoral Registration Officer (ARO) of their home constituency. The application, accompanied by a self-attested copy of relevant documents, can be filed in person, sent by post or filed online on the websites of the CEO of their state or the ECI. While filing Form 6A online, the copy of the passport and copies of other necessary documents like visa should also be uploaded.
Form 6A can be downloaded from the websites and is also available for free in Indian Missions in foreign countries. Booth Level Officers in every polling station area in India have been asked to distribute blank Form 6A to the families of overseas Indians as well.
Supporting documents such as a recent passport size coloured photograph, photocopies of the relevant pages of the passport, address in India, the visa endorsement and other particulars of the applicant are also required. A guide to registering as an NRI voter is available here.
After scrutiny and posting the application to screen for objections for seven days, the decision of the ERO will be communicated to the applicant by post to the address and by SMS on the mobile number listed in the form. Electoral rolls are also available on the CEO websites.