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GS-II : Governance

Comparison of Election Commission of India and USA

  • 09 November, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

Turning the spotlight on America’s election custodian

Context

  • This article makes a comparison between Indian and US election commissions.
  • There has not been even a single order or intervention passed by the Federal Election Commission of the United States of America.
  • In India, our constitutional fathers had debated in the Constituent Assembly itself the necessity of imbuing the ECI with enormous power.
  • By virtue of being the custodian of the electoral roll, all matters related to keeping the roll updated, fall under the ECI’s domain.
  • Indeed, so vast are the powers accorded to the ECI during the election process that even the higher judiciary does not interfere during the course of the election process.

Federal Election Commission of USA

  • For a start, the Federal Election Commission has a much narrower mandate than its Indian equivalent.
  • Moreover, the Federal Election Commission was established in 1975, with the special mandate to regulate campaign finance issues.
  • As a watchdog, it is meant to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the law regarding campaign contributions, and oversee public funding of the presidential election.
  • The Federal Election Commission is led by six Commissioners.
  • The six posts of Commissioner are supposed to be equally shared by Democrats and Republicans, and too have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Poor role of Federal Election Commission

  • But at the time of this most critical presidential election, there are vacancies.
  • In fact the Commission has hardly been able to function in the last year because of resignations, with the result that barring a brief two months, from May to July this year, the Commission has effectively passed no orders at all since August 2019, because it has lacked a quorum — for which at least four members are needed.
  • As a result, several hundred matters lie pending before the Federal Election Commission for want of members.
  • There is usually an undercurrent of tension and that even then, decision making was often divided on partisan lines.
  • During the course of this election, perhaps the most divisive in American history, the President has not mentioned even once about appealing to the Federal Election Commission, but only to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • In sharp contrast, our Constitution’s fathers decided to limit the role of the judiciary in India to the post-election period, when election petitions may be filed.
  • The founding fathers were clear that if election-related petitions were entertained during the course of the election process, it would impede the process and delay election results interminably.

Widening postal ballots base

  • In the 2016 U.S. election, almost a quarter of the votes counted arose from postal and early balloting.
  • In India we have confined postal ballots to only a few categories, of largely government staff (for example those on election duty) as well as the police or armed forces.
  • In these difficult times of the novel coronavirus pandemic, we need to widen this base to include all senior citizens and anyone else who may find it convenient to cast their vote early.
  • We will need to add more foolproof systems.
  • Issue with postal ballot system in India: Postal ballots to the Indian Army have at present to be sent to a central post box or two, i.e., 56 APO, but before they can reach the destination where our jawans or officers are stationed, or return to be counted, the small window of the actual polling period gets over.

 

Source: TH

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