The Election Commission (EC) will holding deliberations this week to find a way to let migrant workers vote outside their constituencies. But before that, the poll panel has to define who is a “migrant”.
The law says eligible voters living outside constituencies where they are registered, cannot vote, unless they are physically present at the place of polling.
The law allows an “ordinary resident”— those who have been living at their current address for at least six months preceding the election — to register for voting.
The EC’s meeting on Monday comes in the backdrop of a clamour by political parties for rule changes which would allow migrant voters to cast their vote through postal ballot or other means.
Amendments would have significant implications for political parties in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur that go to polls in 2017, and are among those with the highest migration rates.
“Not everyone can go to their native places to cast their vote and disallowing them to vote through other means is depriving them of their right to franchise,” CPI leader D Raja said.
Most parties echoed this view, saying the norms need revision because of rising migration, mostly for economic reasons. Rajesh Dikshit of the Samajwadi Party said his party has petitioned the EC several times to consider postal or e-voting.
The EC has yet to approve postal ballots for migrants, as it does not have a single definition of internal or domestic migration, or database of domestic migrants.
A senior EC official said the “first step” is to define who is a migrant and identify the cause of migration.
“The reason for migration includes marriage, or movement with the household, which in electoral phrasing would only be a change in the place of ordinary residence,” the official said.
The EC is not willing to consider such cases as migrants as they can exercise their franchise at their new place of residence.
“Anyone who has been living in a place for more than six months can apply for registration as a voter there and when they move to another place or their native place, they can seek revision in the rolls. The EC has made it very easy for people to transfer their registration,” former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi said.
He ruled out e-voting, citing cyber crimes. “There is little that the EC can do to ensure e-voting is free from bribe or coercion,” he explained.