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Thursday, May 30, 2024

ECI Goes the Extra Mile, Reaches Doorsteps of Elderly, PwD Voters

In a groundbreaking move, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is allowing the elderly and those with disabilities to vote from home in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections for the first time in a Lok Sabha election. The optional home voting option is available to voters who are over 85 years old and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) who meet the 40% baseline disability requirement. Phase I and II of the polling has already started for voters in this group. With this approach, democratic engagement will be strengthened and the election process will be made more inclusive and accessible. 90 lakh+ PwD and over 81 lakh voters who are 85 years of age or older are registered voters nationwide.

Chief Election Commissioner Shri Rajiv Kumar, along with Election Commissioners Shri Gyanesh Kumar and Dr Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, announced the provision of home voting facilities to elders and persons with disabilities (PwDs) as an expression of care and respect towards them. The initiative aims to facilitate a more equitable and representative democracy, where every citizen’s voice matters, regardless of physical limitations or age. Voters who availed the home voting facility in phase 1 polls have expressed gratitude and satisfaction for the ECI initiative.

Voting from home takes place with the involvement of a full contingent of polling staff and security personnel with secrecy of voting diligently maintained. With this, ECI has taken another decisive step towards facilitating a more equitable and representative democracy, where every citizen’s voice matters, regardless of physical limitations or age.

In Churu, Rajasthan, eight PwD voters, all from the same family, exercised home voting facility underlining the strength of India’s electoral democracy. In Chhattisgarh, 87-year-old Indumati Pandey and 86-year-old Sonmati Baghel exercised their franchise using the postal ballot at home and expressed their gratitude to the Election Commission for the facility. In Maharashtra, ECI polling teams travelled 107 kms to provide home voting facility to two elderly voters in Sironcha town in Gadchiroli district, LWE affected area.

The provision of home voting is a progressive measure aimed at empowering voters who encounter barriers to participating in the electoral process at the polling stations. Specifically, this facility is extended to two key demographic groups: persons with disabilities (PwDs) meeting the 40% benchmark disability criteria and senior citizens aged above 85 years. By extending this optional facility to these segments of the voters, the Election Commission recognizes the need to ensure that citizens’ right to vote is not encumbered by physical barriers and disabilities.

The procedure to avail this facility is simple yet thorough. Within five days of the election notification, eligible voters must complete Form 12D and submit it to the returning officer. PwD voters submit a baseline disability certificate with their applications. A dedicated team of polling officials along with security officials visits the voter’s residence to collect their votes. Crucially, voters are notified ahead of time of the planned visit, allowing them to exercise their right to vote in a safe and comfortable manner.

This initiative underscores the ECI’s dedication to leveraging technology to enhance the electoral process. As India gears up for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the introduction of home voting stands as a testament to the ECI’s unwavering commitment to upholding participative, inclusive, and accessible elections.

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