EC to not extend facility of postal ballot to voters above 65 in Bihar polls, bypolls | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission will not be extending postal ballot facility to electors above 65 years of age in the Bihar assembly poll and other bye-elections in the near future, in a reversal of the stance it took earlier in view of the current pandemic situation.
However, it will allow voters who are Covid-positive or are suspected to be positive and are under home or institutional quarantine, to vote through this mode.
The postal ballot option will also continue to be offered to senior citizens above 80 years of age, persons with disabilities and voters engaged in essential services, EC said on Thursday.
The EC’s rethink comes after several political parties, including the Congress, CPM, CPI and RJD, had opposed exempting those above 65 years of age from visiting the polling station to cast their vote.
EC on Thursday said it had decided not to issue the notification to extend postal ballot facility to electors aged 65-plus in view of its decision to already limit the number of voters to be served by each polling station to 1,000, for the ease and safety of voters in Covid-19 situation.
The Commission said the 1,000 voter-limitation had increased the total number of polling stations in Bihar to 1.06 lakh, a rise of 34,000, which would require deployment of 1.8 lakh more polling personnel and other additional resources including vehicles. “Similar challenges would be there for coming bye-elections also,” it added.
“Considering all these issues, challenges and constraints and in view of the decision to limit the number of electors at each polling station to 1000, Commission has decided not to issue the notification to extend the facility of postal ballot to the electors above 65 years of age in the coming General Elections in Bihar and by- elections due in the near future,” said the poll panel.
EC had earlier, in view of the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown guidelines issued by the home ministry from time to time under the Disaster Management Act, recommended to the law ministry to amend the rules to allow persons above 65 years of age and Covid-19 positive voters under quarantine, to vote by postal ballot.
This was as MHA guidelines require those above 65 years to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes. Also, the health ministry guidelines state that those who test positive for Covid-19 or have been in contact with a Covid-19 patient must be under home or institutional quarantine.
The original idea to allow these two categories postal ballot option was to ensure that they were not denied the right to vote while minimising the risk of infection at the polling station.
On June 19, the law ministry, on the EC’s recommendation, amended the rules accordingly. Yet, before implementing the enabling provision, the Commission was required to issue the notification under Section 60(c) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The EC will now not be issuing this notification relating to senior citizens between 65 and 80 years of age.

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