National Voters’ Day – The Power of Vote
TOPIC: General studies 2
- Indian polity; Government laws and policies; Policy reforms
- Democratic governance and society
National Voters Day is mark of the power of every individual vote.
The origin of Indian democracy, in particular the establishment of its edifice through the implementation of universal adult franchise, was an ingeniously Indian enterprise. It was no legacy of colonial rule, and was largely driven by the Indians, often by people of modest means. The turning of all adults into voters was a staggering democratic state-building operation of inclusion and scale, which surpassed any previous experience in democratic world history. This work was undertaken by Indian bureaucrats between August 1947, when the country became independent, and January 1950, when it adopted the Constitution.
The fundamental problem lies in viewing voting as a transaction, the aim of which is to get some benefit for an individual or a group. But we have to recognise that voting is not like any other transaction. The duty that is inherent in the act of voting is an ethical duty, not just a constitutional one. It is the duty of having to act not for individual benefit, such as money or ideology, but for the benefit of the larger society. Such benefit for the larger society will include others benefiting as much as each one of us does through each of our votes. This duty is the ethical rationality related to voting. It is also a recognition that a democratic action like voting is primarily for the good of something larger than one’s self interests.
Participation in the democratic and electoral processes is integral to the successful running of any democracy and the very basis of wholesome democratic elections. A voter is the bedrock of the institution of democracy.
Tata Institute of Social Sciences had the following suggestions for EC to increase voter participation at polls:
- The “ordinarily resident” clause for enrolling as a voter should be treated as multi-local identity for internal migrants. EC says one has to be “ordinarily resident of the part or polling area of the constituency” where they want to be enrolled, which means one’s residential address is tied to the place of voting
- Political parties should debate the suitability of multiple voting mechanisms like postal, proxy, absentee, early and e-voting
- The short-term/seasonal migrants should be identified, especially among workers belonging to the poor and disadvantaged sections
- The Contract Labour and The Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation Of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, needs effective implementation. The Act aims to regulate the employment and safeguard interests of inter-state migrant workers, and as such requires registration of establishments employing them. That would provide a database of migrants for improving voter participation
- Voter ID and Aadhaar number should be merged to aid portability of voting rights
- A common, singlepoint, one-time voluntary registration system should be introduced at the destination place for migrant workers
- Electoral support services should be provided for migrants at the source and destination areas
- EC should organise campaigns to raise awareness about voting rights among domestic migrants
- Helplines should be opened for migrants at their destination place, with staff speaking different languages
- The National Voters’ Day celebration was initiated in India in 2011 by the then-President of India, Pratibha Devi Patil, on the 61st foundation day of Election Commission of India.
- Established in 1950, the Election Commission of India is an organisation aims to increase the participation of number of voters and to encourage the newly eligible voters.
- The Constitution (Sixty-First Amendment) Act, 1988 had lowered the threshold voting age from 21 years to 18 years.
2020 theme of National Voters’ Day is – ‘Electoral Literacy for Stronger Democracy’.
Two Books Launched
Belief in the Ballot-II: An anthology of 101 human stories from across the nation about elections.
The Centenarian Voters: Sentinels of Our Democracy: Enumerates the stories and experiences of 51 centenarians across India, who braved difficult terrain, poor health and other challenges to come out and vote.
Connecting the Dots:
- A voter is the bedrock of the institution of democracy. Discuss.
- Active participation in a democracy should be voluntary. Is compulsory voting against democracy? Substantiate your answer with a critical examination of the above statement.