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  • 02 December, 2023

  • 15 Min Read

Electoral Reforms and Postal Ballot

Electoral reforms refer to the changes or improvements made to the electoral process to ensure the integrity and transparency of the electoral system. These reforms are necessary to maintain the credibility of the electoral process and to ensure that every vote counts.

  • Ensuring free and fair elections (Article 324): Electoral reforms aim to address the issues of electoral malpractices and ensure that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner.
  • Enhancing voter participation: Electoral reforms aim to increase voter turnout and to address the issue of voter apathy, difficulty in accessing polling booths, etc.
  • Reducing the influence of money and muscle power: Electoral reforms help to reduce the influence of money and muscle power by regulating campaign finance and ensuring the safety of voters.
  • Encouraging transparency and accountability: Electoral reforms initiate the measures such as mandatory disclosure of criminal records by candidates and the use of technology to monitor the electoral process.
  • Addressing electoral inequalities: Electoral reforms try to bring down the inequalities such as the under-representation of women and marginalized communities.

Major Challenges In The Indian Electoral System

  • Money Power: Electioneering is a costly process in any democratic government, but it is especially so in India.
  • Money power has a negative impact on our electoral system, substantially undermining the functioning of periodic elections. It leads to widespread corruption and is a major contributor to the black money economy.
  • Muscle Power: Pre-election intimidation, post-election victimization, most riggings of any kind, and silent and brutal booth capturing are all fruits of physical power.
  • Criminalization of politics and criminalization of criminals, both of which are now freely practiced, are two sides of the same coin and are primarily responsible for the display of brute power at elections. Criminals are able to win elections for their benefactors through the use of violence.
  • Misuse of Government Machinery: It is commonly said that the government in power at the time of an election abuses official machinery to help its party's candidates win elections.
  • Misuse of official machinery takes many forms, including the publication of advertising at the expense of the government and the public exchequer publiciing their accomplishments, disbursements from ministerial discretionary funds, and the use of government cars for canvassing.

Criminalization Of Politics

The criminals' motivation for entering politics is to obtain influence and ensure that cases against them are dropped or not pursued. Because of their financial clout, they are able to make it big in politics. Political parties solicit funds from criminals in exchange for political privilege and protection.

Non-serious Candidates In Political Parties

Serious candidates frequently run non-serious candidates in order to cut a significant number of votes from opposing candidates, split votes along caste lines, or have more physical force at polling stations and counting centers.

Election Management Volume

A large number of candidates makes election management difficult for election authorities. The voters are also hampered in identifying their preferred candidates. The sanctity of elections is jeopardized as a result of this. This barrage of irresponsibility must be halted.

Incentives To Entice Voters (Freebies)

  • Freebies have actually compounded the problem of money power in politics. Free liquor or some goods or services to voters are acts of enticing voters.
  • Paid and Fake News: Paid news is published as a news item in the form of an advertisement. Fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. Both are the threats to the free and fair electoral system.

Electoral Reforms Before 2010

Electoral Reforms Before 2010

  • Lowering of Voting Age – The 61st Constitutional Amendment Act(1988) reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
  • Deputation to Election Commission – A provision was made in 1988 which said that the officers and the staff engaged in preparation, revision and correction of electoral rolls for elections will be considered to be on deputation to the Election. Commission for the period of such employment.
  • Increase in Number of Proposers – There was an increase in the number of proposers for election to Rajya Sabha and Legislative councils in 1988.
  • Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) – The use of EVMs in elections was enabled by a provision in 1989. The EVMs were used for the first time in the general elections (entire state) to the Assembly of Goa in 1999.
  • Booth Capturing – A provision was made in 1989 for adjournment of poll or countermanding of elections in case of booth capturing.
  • Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) -The use of electors’ photo identity cards by the Election Commission is surely making the electoral process simple, smoother and quicker. A decision was taken by the Election Commission in 1993 to issue photo identity cards to electors throughout the country to check bogus voting and impersonation of electors at elections.
  • Prohibition on sale of liquor: No liquor or other intoxicants shall be sold or given or distributed at any shop, eating place, or any other place, whether private or public, within a polling area during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of poll.
  • Disqualification on conviction for violating the National Honours Act, 1971: This shall lead to disqualification of the person for 6 years from contesting to the Parliament and the state legislatures.

Electoral Reforms After 2010

  • The ceiling on election expenditure: The Commission has put a cap on individual candidates’ spending. For the Lok Sabha elections, it is Rs. 50 – 70 lakh (depending on the state they are contesting the Lok Sabha seat from), and Rs. 20 – 28 lakh for an assembly election.
  • Restriction on exit polls: The EC issued a statement before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saying that exit poll results could be broadcast only after the final phase of the elections were over. This was done to avoid prospective voters from being misguided or prejudiced in any manner.
  • Voting through postal ballot: In 2013, the EC decided to expand the ambit of postal ballot voting in the country. Previously, only Indian staff in missions abroad and defence personnel in a limited way, could vote via postal ballots. Now, there are 6 categories of voters who can use the postal ballot: service voters; special voters; wives of service voters and special voters; voters subjected to preventive detention; voters on election duty and Notified voters.
  • Awareness Creation: The government decided to observe January 25th as ‘National Voters Day’ to mark the EC’s founding day. Political parties need to report any contribution in excess of Rs 20000 to the EC for claiming income tax benefit.
  • Declaring of criminal antecedents, assets, etc. by the candidates is required and declaring false information in the affidavit is now an electoral offence punishable with imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both.
  • Introduction of NOTA - None Of The Above (NOTA) is a ballot option designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system. It was introduced in India following the 2013 Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India judgment. However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’. The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled
  • Introduction of VVPAT ( Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail ) Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) is a method of providing feedback to voters using EVMs. A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. It contains the name of the candidate for whom vote has been cast and symbol of the party/individual candidate.
  • Transparency in election funding: Electoral bonds Government introduced an Electoral Bond Scheme in January 2018, purportedly with a view to cleansing the prevailing culture of political sponsorship. An electoral bond is designed to be a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note — in effect, it will be similar to a bank note that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest. It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India.

Measures Taken By ECI For Electoral Reforms

Political Parties Registration Tracking Management System (PPRTMS): To allow an applicant to track the progress of his/her application.

Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation Programme (SVEEP): ECI organizes voter awareness campaigns in order to educate the voters.

Measures taken by the Judiciary for electoral reforms

Supreme Court in the following cases recommended various reforms:

  • In the Union of India versus Association of Democratic Reforms 2002 case: Contesting candidates need to disclose all their assets and liabilities, criminal convictions, etc. at the time of filing their nomination paper.
  • In Ramesh Dalal versus Union of India 2005 case: A legislator is disqualified from contesting elections if, on the day of filing the nomination papers, he/she stands convicted in a Court of law.
  • In Lily Thomas versus Union of India 2013 case: The nature of disqualification for being a member of the House as provided under Article 101(3) & 190(3) is automatic and takes place with immediate effect.
  • In People’s Union of Civil Liberties versus Union of India 2013 case: Voters enjoy “Right to Negative Vote” in the election process and directed the ECI to include the choice of “NOTA” in the ballot paper.

Electoral Reforms since 2010

  • Restrictions imposed on exit polls: According to a 2009 provision, conducting exit polls and publishing results of exit polls would be prohibited during the election to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.
  • Time limit for submitting a case for disqualification: In 2009, a three-month time limit was added within which the specified authority will have to submit the case of a person found guilty of corrupt practice to the President to determine the question of disqualification.
  • Increase in security deposit: In 2009, the amount of security deposit to be paid by the candidates contesting elections to the Lok Sabha was increased from ?10,000 to ?25,000.
  • Appellate authority within the district: In 2009, a provision was made for appointment of an appellate authority within the district against the orders of the Electoral Registration Officers, instead of the Chief Electoral Officer of the state.
  • Persons in jail or police custody can contest elections: In 2013, Representation of the People Act, 1951 was amended to allow the persons in jail or police custody to contest elections.
  • Immediate disqualification of convicted MPs and MLAs: Supreme Court, in Lily Thomas case(2013), held that convicted MPs and MLAs will be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months’ time for appeal, as was the case before.
  • Ceiling on cash donations lowered: In the 2017 budget, the limit for anonymous cash donations by any individual to a political party has been lowered from ?20,000 to ?2,000.
  • Cap on corporate contributions lifted: In the 2017 budget, the limit on corporate contributions from 7.5 percent of the net profit of a company’s past three financial years has been removed.
  • Introduction of electoral bonds: Electoral Bonds, introduced in 2018, are touted as an alternative to cash donations made to the political parties. It is aimed at bringing clean money and substantial transparency into the system of political funding.
  • Foreign funding allowed: Receiving of foreign funds by the political parties has been allowed by amending Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.

What are the reforms recommended by the Election Commission of India?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has made several recommendations for electoral reforms over the years to improve the electoral process and ensure free and fair elections. Some of the major recommendations are:

  • The Commission is of the view that the law should be amended to provide that a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time.
  • Election commission endorsed the call for a lifetime ban in the apex court. It had argued that such a move would “champion the cause of decriminalization of politics”.
  • The Commission proposes that where any general election is due on the expiration of the term of the House, advertisements of achievements of the governments, either Central or State, in any manner, should be prohibited for a period of six months prior to the date of expiry of the term of the House.
  • The Election Commission proposes an amendment to provide the same protection and safeguard in the matter of removability of Election Commissioners from office as is available to the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • The decisions relating to anti-defectionmatters should be rendered by the President or the Governor with the recommendation of the Election Commission.
  • There should be the use of common electoral rolls at elections conducted by the Election Commission and the State Election Commissions.
  • Election Commission proposes that making false declarations concerning elections be an offense.
  • Rule-making authority under the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and Representation of the People Act, 1951, should be conferred on the Election Commission instead of the Central Government.

Various Committees On Electoral Reforms


  • The ordering of re-poll or countermanding should not only be on the report of the returning officer, but also otherwise and, also to give the Election Commission the requisite powers to appoint investigating agencies, prosecuting agencies and constitution of special courts.
  • The question of disqualification of members should not be decided by the speaker or the Chairman of the concerned House.
  • Changes in the voting pattern and shift to proportional representation of the list system, instead of present voting system should be made (However, this matter was to be further discussed amongst exports
  • There should be fresh delimitation on the basis of 1981 census and there should be a provision for rotation of reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • No candidates should be allowed to contest an election from more than two constituencies. The age of Candidates for assembly seats should be reduced to21 and for the Council to 25.
  • A model code of conduct be framed which would include issues relating to-the use of official machinery, transport, media, funds etc
  • Extensive restructuring of the accounting of election expenses is needed.
  • Speedy trial of election disputes through the help of ad-hoc judges should be ensured.
  • EVM should be used to put an end to manipulating and tempering.


  • The Commission advocated a total ban on splits and mergers of political parties during the term of the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly.
  • Once a member has been elected on a ticket of a particular recognized party, then he should remain in that party till the dissolution of the House or till the end of his membership by resignation or otherwise.
  • The Commission has recommended adequate representation.
  • To curb the criminalization of politics, the Commission has suggested that a person should be disqualified from contesting elections to the Lok Sabha or an Assembly if a court has ordered framing of charges in respect of offences listed in the Representation of the People Act, 1951.


  • The Election Commission should be a three-member body.
  • The minimum age for voting should be 18 years.
  • The TV and Radio should be placed under the control of autonomous statutory corporations.
  • The committee recommended the formation of a voter’s council in as many constituencies as possible which can help in free and fair elections.

Postal Ballot

Recently, in Madhya Pradesh, an opposition party confronted election officials for opening the strong room where postal ballots had been stored.

What options are available for voting in India?

  • Visiting the poll booth - A person will visit the polling booth to exercise his/her franchise.
  • Postal ballots - A voter exercises his/her franchise through post.
  • Proxy voting - The person can authorize another residing in the same polling booth area to cast a vote on his/her behalf.

What is postal vote ballot?


Postal Vote Ballot

Postal ballot voting

  • It refers to the distribution of ballot papers to registered voters by post instead of people coming to the polling booth directly to vote.
  • These votes are returned in the post or handed in person in the elections office or at a polling station

Applicable to

  • Service voters
  • Special voters
  • Absentee voters
  • Voters on election duty
  • Electors under preventive detention

Service voters

  • Service voter includes a member of the Armed Forces of the Union, Armed Police Force of a State or employed under the Government of India.
  • They can cast their votes either through postal ballot or through a proxy voter.
  • A voter who opts to vote through a proxy is called a Classified Service Voter.

Special voters

  • It includes President of India, Vice President, Governors, Union Cabinet ministers, Speaker of the House and government officers on poll duty.

Absentee voters

  • These are voters employed in essential services and unable to cast their vote due to their service conditions.
  • Notified voters- Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Northern Railway (Passenger and Freight) Services and media persons.
  • Senior citizens above 80 years of age and those belonging to the category of physically disabled (PWD).
  • COVID-19 infected or suspected patients.

Electronically Transmitted Post Ballot System (ETPBS)

  • Through this system, the service voters cast their vote on an electronically received postal ballot, from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • It is a fully secured system, having 2 security layers - OTP and PIN.
  • Launched by - Election Commission of India with the help of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
  • Applicable for - Service voters
  • Motto - “No voter to be left behind”

What is the procedure for storing postal voting ballot system?

  • Casting of votes- Voters who are eligible for postal ballots can cast their votes at facilitation centres or by post.
  • The ballots are collected daily and stored in a strong room by the Returning Officer (RO).
  • Transfer of ballots- The RO informs the candidates when the postal ballots will be moved from one strong room to another.
  • The postal ballots are taken out of the strong room in front of the candidates or their agents, put in a steel box and sealed.
  • Opening of ballots - The steel box is escorted by armed CPF to the strong room at the counting centre a day before counting and opened in the presence of candidates or their representatives.

What are the issues with postal ballot?

  • Tampering of votes- They are vulnerable to being altered, stolen, or forged by malicious actors.
  • Time constraints- They may cause delays in counting and declaring the results due to the time required to process and verify them.
  • Violates privacy- They may violate the voting confidentiality and expose the voters to undue influence or coercion by others.
  • Complexity- They may impose unequal burdens and consequences on different groups of voters depending on their literacy, accessibility, and availability of postal services.

Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)

  • It is an electronic device for recording votes that consists of 2 units – a Control Unit and a Balloting Unit.
  • It was introduced in Parur Assembly Constituency of Kerala in the year 1982.
  • Developed by- State-owned Electronics Corporation of India and Bharat Electronics Limited

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trial (VVPAT)

  • It is an independent system attached to an EVM.
  • It acts as a second line of verification and allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
  • When a vote is cast, a slip is printed on the VVPAT printer containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate voted.
  • This remains visible through a transparent window for 7 seconds.
  • The printed slip automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box which can be counted if needed.


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