There are an estimated 31 million Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). With roughly half of them eligible to vote in India, and at a median voter-size of 10.3 lakh per constituency; this would represent 15 parliamentary “seats”.
WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter have been abuzz regarding the voting rights of NRIs. We have been bombarded with links to register, the role of Indian High Commissions, the need to sign affidavits, and a whole lot of unintelligible “advice”. Messages have been misinformation at worst and confusing at best.
We decided to dig in and investigate. We’ve come up with a simplistic 'Dummies Guide' if you will.
Let’s break down different options to participate in Elections 2019.
THE HOW-TO GUIDE
Category 1: Service Voters
You can enroll as service voters if you are in the Armed Forces of India from Assam Rifles, CRPF, BSF, ITBF; GREF in Border Road Organization, Central Industrial Security Force, employed under the Government of India, in a post outside India, member of an Armed Police Force of a State, and serving outside that state.
More details and forms here. As most readers would NOT fall in this category, let’s skim over to the next category.
Category 2: Overseas Voters
Lower mortals like you and me; who are outside India for jobs, running businesses, going to universities, etc (and are still Indian citizens), here is a handy guide and an important clarification.
Step 1: Fill out the Enrollment Form
Fill Form 6A online at www.nvsp.in and upload the requisite proofs.
Alternatively, download Form 6A from ECI website. Fill Form 6A in 2 copies. Forms are also available free of cost in Indian Missions. You will need passport sized photos, self-attested copy of passport, etc.
Step 2: The Verification Process
Booth Level Officer will visit the home address mentioned in your passport and inquire to verify the copies of documents.
In cases where no relative is available or willing to give declaration for verification of documents, the documents will be sent for verification to the concerned Indian Mission.
Decision of the ERO will be communicated to you by post on the address and SMS on the mobile number given in Form 6A. Electoral rolls are also on the website of the Chief Electoral Officer.
Step 3: How to Vote
Now, this is where most of the misinformation is being spread. Please note that you cannot cast your vote in Indian embassies or missions abroad…yet. This means you will need to go back to India, to your electoral booth, and cast your vote.
There have been various rumours about changes in rules, especially allowing proxy voting. Here is the clarification.
Misinformation 1: “Proxy voting has always been allowed. Your brother/parents can vote for you.”
Selected voters can allow a proxy to cast a vote on his/her behalf. At this point, proxy voting is allowed in India for Armed Forces or Service Personnel, but not extended to NRIs.
Misinformation 2: “But Lok Sabha passed the bill to allow proxy voting, no?”
There was a bill passed in Lok Sabha recently, to allow NRIs rights of proxy voting. This bill is called Representation of People act 1950 (amendment) bill. The bill still needs to face Rajya Sabha and once passed in both houses, will come into force. As of now, this amendment bill is pending in Rajya Sabha.
Misinformation 3: “E-ballots… (insert rumour here)”
A proposal to issue Elector Photo Identity Card to all overseas (NRI) elector is under active consideration of ECI; as is a proposal for a “one way electronically transmitted postal ballot”. At this point a voter may cast his/her vote in person at the polling station.
SO, WHAT NOW?
So there you have it. A simple guide for all those NRIs that were as confused as we were.
So go ahead, register yourself, and start planning your summer trip back home. This time, it won’t be just jalebis, butter-milk and late nights with the family. Let’s go be a part of something much bigger than ourselves!
Gaurav Dave, co-author of the article, is an engineer by profession and lives in Singapore. He is a vivid reader of current affairs and keeps himself politically informed. He tweets at @davegaurav. The views of the authors are personal and do not reflect those of Connected to India.