NEW DELHI: Non-resident Indians (NRIs), who currently have to vote in India for the first time, will soon be able to vote remotely – perhaps in the state elections due in May next year – when the Election Commission’s proposal to the law ministry finds acceptance.
The EC suggested that NRIs be allowed to vote through the Electronic Transfer Postal Ballot System (ETPBS), which is already available to service voters, including members of the armed forces, paramilitary and government employees serving abroad.
In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State on November 27, the EC proposed to make necessary amendments to the Electoral Rules, 1961, “in order to enable Indian migrants to vote by postal ballot,” which “technically and administratively constitutes the general assembly of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.” The facility is set to be expanded during the election ”.
About 1.17 crore non-resident Indians have registered as voters. The EC said in its letter that it was receiving several representations from Indian immigrants to facilitate voting by postal ballot, as traveling abroad for this purpose is not a viable option as such overseas voters cannot attend their constituency, otherwise they cannot leave their place of residence due to forced employment, education or other engagements. The protocols for Covid further exacerbated the problem, it said.
According to the EC proposal, a postal ballot can be issued electronically after informing the returning officer of the NRI through the Form 12 vote, which must be received at least five days after the election notification. A duly filled postal ballot – authorized by an official to be appointed by a diplomatic or embassy representative in India in the country where the foreign electors reside – must be returned by post to the NRI field return officer in India. It is most recently received by 8am on the day of counting.
“We estimate a two-week window for the return of the postal ballot to the NRI,” an EC official told TOI. This arrangement is already being adopted for voting by the embassy staff abroad. “Once the facility is allowed to NRIs, the rate of return of such postal ballots is much larger,” the official said.

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