“You’ve got to vote, vote, vote, vote. That’s it, that’s the way we move forward”. Don’t worry, we are not forcing our thoughts on you but rather reminding you that we as a citizen have the most powerful non-violent weapon in our country. Not with guns or rifles but a single vote can easily turn the tables for Indian politics, all thanks to our Constitution.
As per the Indian Constitution, every Indian citizen who is of sound mind is given a universal voting right. Article 326 deals with the same & in 1988, the 61st amendment was passed that lowered the voting age of elections to the Lok Sabha and to the Legislative Assemblies of States from 21 years to 18 years & also gave that no one can be discriminated against on the basis of religion, caste, creed, economic status, etc. In this article, we will be discussing the right to vote in India.
Who can Vote? Criteria for Voting in India
The eligibility criterion for voting is clearly laid down in our Constitution, they are:
If you fulfil the above two criteria, you can participate in the following types of elections:
According to the voting rules,
The registered constituency here implies that the voters are required to get themselves registered at a specific constituency, which must be a place they live in. It is from this constituency that the authority will provide them with a Voter ID card.
History of voting rights
Going back to the 19th century, several countries' voting rights were given on the grounds of race, gender, social class & wealth. Presently, if people are not interested in any of the candidates then there is NOTA (explained below in this article). But in such a case, denying voting directly means that the person is not interested in the country’s development as in India, almost everyone gets the right to vote after 18 years of age.
Did you know the reason behind this was that there had been only one form of tax; property tax? Only the people who paid taxes were allowed to vote.
Even, in the countries like the US, there was discrimination on the basis of skin colour. Also, countries like Canada and Australia did not give voting rights to indigenous people.
Until the 20th century, there were countries where voting rights were given on the basis of one’s literacy level.
The voting age prevalent in countries like Austria, Brazil and Argentina including India is 16 years.
Also, the 61st Amendment of the Constitution lowered the voting age of elections to the Lok Sabha and to the Legislative Assemblies from 21 to 18 years which was done by amending Article 354 of the Constitution.
Article 21 of the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights)states that “everyone has a right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly/through freely chosen representatives”.
How to cast your vote?
There are mainly two methods:-
By visiting the polling booth: To participate in the election, you need to vote at the polling booth by visiting the place personally. This method of casting vote makes sure that only the correct voter goes to the ballot & not an imposter.
Using the postal ballot: This is a special method of casting a vote wherein you will be able to exercise your voting right by casting your vote via post. This is especially for the ones who cannot visit the booth directly.
For example- the armed forces personnel, electoral officers on duty etc.
What are the provisions under the Constitution for voting?
Right to Know: This voting right ensures that the voter knows about the candidates fighting the elections (Art. 19).
Voting rights of prisoners and NRI Voters: Initially the Right to Vote was not made available to the NRIs (Non-Resident Indians). But, with the amendment passed in 2010, the voting right was given to NRIs (even if they are absent for 6 months).
P.S- Prisoners are yet not allowed to vote.
Voting rights of disabled citizens: This right is for the physically disabled or infirm people who cannot vote by postal ballot. So, they seek help from electoral officers.
Tendered voting right: This right is for voters who wish to vote after having found out that others using their names have already voted on their behalf. They will have to show ID proof to put the vote on a separate ballot paper.
NOTA or Right Not to Vote: As per this right, a voter can choose to not cast a vote informing that they do not want to vote for any of the electoral candidates contesting the election.
India is a developing country, so in our opinion, compulsory voting will bring good changes to our democratic system for which maybe this right must be converted into duty for every Indian citizen. On the other hand, compulsory voting might limit an individual’s liberty & freedom to cast a vote. Therefore, with these arguments, it’s only a matter of time before India might witness some new development on the right to vote.