EC defends decision to allow postal votes for those above 65 years

The Election Commission has defended its decision to allow voters above 65 years – Coronavirus positive as well as suspected patients to cast postal votes. The poll body said, the decision was taken to minimise their exposure in public, while not depriving them of their right to vote.

The Commission’s response came after CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury wrote a letter to Chief Election Commissioner saying unilateral measures are being taken by the poll panel in altering electoral procedures without consulting political parties.

Keeping in mind the safety of senior citizens amid rising cases of coronavirus, the age limit for voters to opt for the postal ballot in Lok Sabha and assembly elections has been reduced to 65, which was earlier 80.

Responding to Mr Yechury’s letter, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said, the decision to allow elderly and Covid-19 patients to cast postal votes was taken under the Representation of People Act, 1951. He said, ECI has not used Article 324 for extension of postal ballot facility to specified class of electors.

He also said that the ECI has held meetings with parties in Bihar, where Assembly elections are due later this year. The Deputy Election Commissioner said, ECI has directed to limit the number of voters in each polling station to 1,000 and to set up alternate polling booths in the same locality to ensure social distancing norms are followed during the voting process.

Mr Kumar said that the Commission is taking several steps to ensure that the maximum participation of voters, especially during these challenging times. He said, the ECI is open to suggestions for any further steps to be taken to tackle the emerging situation.