Voter’s Rights

History of Election in India

India has an asymmetric federal government, with elected officials at the federal, state and local levels. At the national level, the head of government, Prime Minister, is elected by the members of Lok Sabha, lower house of the parliament of India.[1] All members of Lok Sabha except two, who can be nominated by president of India, are directly elected through general elections which takes place every five years, in normal circumstances, by universal adult suffrage.[2] Members of Rajya Sabha, upper house of Indian parliament, are elected by elected members of the legislative assemblies of states and electoral college for Union Territories of India.[3] In 2009, the elections involved an electorate of 714 million[4] (larger than both EU and US elections combined[5]). Declared expenditure has trebled since 1989 to almost $300 million, using more than one million electronic voting machines.[6]The size of the huge electorate mandates that elections be conducted in a number of phases (there were four phases in 2004 General Elections and five phases in 2009 General Elections). It involves a number of step-by-step processes from announcement of election dates by the Election Commission of India, which brings into force the ‘model code of conduct’ for the political parties, to the announcement of results and submission of the list of successful candidates to the executive head of the state or the centre. The submission of results marks the end of the election process, thereby paving way for the formation of the new government.


Elections in India

Elections in India are considered to be the very backbone of the Indian democracy. Being a Parliamentary Republic, the citizens of India are trusted with the responsibility to choose the head of the country as well as of the state. There are both General and State elections that are held in the country based on the Federal structure of the Indian Republic. The elections in India often transcend from being a mere political activity to a high publicized and often sensationalized national event, with clear cultural ramifications. The entire nation seems to suddenly come to life at the onset of the elections, particularly the General Elections. Even the assembly elections, which determine the state government, are events of great significance. All state elections are closely observed throughout the nation. Often the results of the state elections are considered to be clear indications of the mood of the nation


General Elections in India

The General elections was held for the first time in 1951. However, then the House had a strength of 489 seats, with members chosen from the 26 states of India. Presently, there a total of 545 members in the House, with two unelected members as representatives of the Anglo-Indian community in India. A total of 543 members are chosen by the general elections.

The General election continues to be by far the most important political event in the country. They are held once in every five year, unless the Central government is dissolved beforehand. India follows a bicameral legislative structure. The members to the House of the People or the Lok Sabha are elected through the General elections. These members are chosen from the parliamentary constituencies. The number of parliamentary constituencies in a state depends upon the size and the population of the state. The executive along with the Council of Ministers is chosen from among the members of the winning party or the ruling coalition, as the case may be.

The State elections in India are structurally similar to the general elections in India. It chooses members for the state assembly. The number of seats in the assembly as well as the number of members in the Cabinet vary from state to state, depending on its size and population.


The Election Commission of India

The Election Commission is the apex body that conducts the elections in India. Both the general and the assembly elections in India are held in accordance with the clear rules laid down by the Election Commission of India. The Election Commission or the EC comprises high-ranking government officials and is formed under the guidelines of the Indian Constitution. The EC is a highly powerful body and is granted with a great degree of autonomous powers to successfully conduct the elections. Even the judiciary resists from intervening while the electoral process is on. The work of the Election Commission typically starts with the announcement of various important dates and deadlines related to the election, including the dates for voter registration, the filing of nominations, counting and results. Its activities continue throughout the time-period, when the elections are conducted in the country. The fact that elections across the country are held in phases and not at the same time extends the period of its work. The responsibilities of the EC finally concludes with the submission of the results of the elections.

An election in India is a daunting affair because of the expanse and the high population of the country. The logistical involvement is really overwhelming. The work begins with the formation of the electoral list. All Indian citizens above the age of 18 are eligible for polling rights. A great involvement of man power is needed for the preparation of the elections list, which involves not less than 670 million people. The Election Commission has undertaken a number of extremely effective steps in order to render the electoral list full-proof and comprehensive, including door-to-door registration and verification systems. Registration can be done till a week before the date of the filing of the nominations.

The next important part of the Election Commission’s pre-election activities involves the preparation of the candidate’s list. The candidates have to declare their age, properties and criminal records to run the elections. A convicted criminal cannot run as a candidate. However, criminals under trial can do so, although he has to vacate the office if he declared convicted in future.

The political parties are commonly brought together by the EC to lay down the lines for the common code of conduct that is expected to be followed by all the relevant and participating parties. The code of conduct was brought about primarily to cut down on the exorbitant amounts spent on the elections in the previous versions of the Indian elections. The amount spent are presently limited, as are the modes of campaigning. Handing out of gifts, bribery, as well as the use of loudspeakers and microphones after 10.00 pm are banned and are considered to be gross violation of the code of conduct. Any announcement of sops and benefits is also restricted after the election days are announced. The political parties are also barred from taking any step that may aggrandize communal or class-based tension among the various groups of people who inhabit the land. The campaigning stops 48 hours before the actual polling begins. Any breach of the code of conduct can be judged by the Election Commission, which has the power to act as a Civil Court during the Election time.

The Voting Process

The Voting Day is a declared holiday. The enthusiasm is noted at every sphere of the Indian society who queue up from early in the morning in order to cast their polls. The polling is typically conducted by government officials and are held in government schools and colleges, as well as certain other government owned venues. An indelible ink is applied on the finger of the voter once the process is complete, this is done in order to avoid the risk of bogus voting. Presently, the Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs have replaced the traditional ballot boxes in most areas. This was done to counter the great degree of booth capturing and rigging that became a common feature of the elections in certain parts of the country.

Soon after the voting process is over, the EVMs are conducted under strict security to highly guarded centers where they are kept till the counting begins. The results of the elections usually keep coming within hours of the final phase of voting is complete. There are provisions of bye-elections in booths and constituencies where some kind of dispute arises related to the voting process. The candidate with the maximum number of votes in a single constituency is declared to be the winner.

The announcement of the results is extremely well-publicized event. The media gets into the scene right from the polling day through conducting the exit polls. Regular bulletins keep the states and the entire country tuned in to the results of the elections. Excitement runs high as the final phase of the counting are entered. Usually, the picture becomes clear by the end of the day.

After the final results are submitted, the legislative head invites the winning party to form the government. In the case of the Center, it is the President; whereas in the states, it is the Governor, who performs this duty. The party, or the coalition, then has to ensure its majority through a vote of confidence. It needs a simple majority of at least 50% of the House to form the government.

Electoral Process

Electoral Process in India takes at least a month for state assembly elections with the duration increasing further for the General Elections, as the sheer size of the electorate and immense logistics require the general election be conducted in a number of phases. Publishing of electoral rolls is a key process that happens before the elections and is vital for the conduct of elections in India. Indian Constitution set the eligibility of an individual for voting. Any person, who is a citizen of India, and above 18 years of age is eligible to enroll as a voter in the electoral rolls. It is the responsibility of the eligible voters to enroll their names. Normally, voter registrations are allowed one week prior to the last date for nomination of candidates. Apart from this, ECI conducts periodical door-to-door voter registration/verification drives and publishes the electoral rolls online and offline, where electoral are made public at Head Post Offices of a town/city

History of elections in India

Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election on the basis of the adult suffrage. The maximum strength of the House envisaged by the Constitution is 552, which is made up by election of up to 530 members to represent the States, up to 20 members to represent the Union Territories and not more than two members of the Anglo-Indian Community to be nominated by the President, if, in his/ her opinion, that community is not adequately represented in the House.
•    1st Lok Sabha (1951)
•    2nd Lok Sabha (1957)
•    3rd Lok Sabha (1962)
•    4th Lok Sabha (1967)
•    5th Lok Sabha (1971)
•    6th Lok Sabha (1977)
•    7th Lok Sabha (1980)
•    8th Lok Sabha (1984-85)
•    9th Lok Sabha (1989)
•    10th Lok Sabha (1991)
•    11th Lok Sabha (1996)
•    12th Lok Sabha (1998)
•    13th Lok Sabha (1999)
•    14th Lok Sabha (2004)
•    15th Lok Sabha (2009)

History of political parties

The dominance of the Indian National Congress was broken for the first time in 1977, with the defeat of the party led by Indira Gandhi, by an unlikely coalition of all the major other parties, which protested against the imposition of a controversial Emergency from 1975–1977. A similar coalition, led by VP Singh was swept to power in 1989 in the wake of major allegations of corruption by the incumbent Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. It, too, lost its steam in 1990.In 1992, the heretofore one-party-dominant politics in India gave way to a coalition system wherein no single party can expect to achieve a majority in the Parliament to form a government, but rather has to depend on a process of coalition building with other parties to form a block and claim a majority to be invited to form the government. This has been a consequence of strong regional parties which ride on the back of regional aspirations. While parties like the TDP and the AIADMK had traditionally been strong regional contenders, the 1990s saw the emergence of other regional players such as the Lok Dal, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Janata Dal. These parties are traditionally based on regional aspirations, e.g. Telangana Rashtra Samithi or are strongly influenced by caste considerations, e.g. Bahujan Samaj Party which claims to represent the Dalits.Presently, the United Progressive Alliance led by the Congress Party is in power, while the National Democratic Alliance forms the opposition. Manmohan Singh was re-elected the Prime minister of India.

Election Commission

Elections in India are conducted by the Election Commission of India, the authority created under the Constitution. It is a well established convention that once the election process commences; no courts intervene until the results are declared by the election commission. During the elections, vast powers are assigned to the election commission to the extent that it can function as a civil court, if needed.

Electoral process

Electoral Process in India takes at least a month for state assembly elections with the duration increasing further for the General Elections. Publishing of electoral rolls is a key process that happens before the elections and is vital for the conduct of elections in India. The Indian Constitution sets the eligibility of an individual for voting. Any person who is a citizen of India and above 18 years of age is eligible to enroll as a voter in the electoral rolls. It is the responsibility of the eligible voters to enroll their names. Normally, voter registrations are allowed latest one week prior to the last date for nomination of candidates.

Pre elections

At first before the elections the dates of nomination, polling and counting takes place. The model code of conduct comes in force from the day the dates are announced. No party is allowed to use the government resources for campaigning. The code of conduct stipulates that campaigning be stopped 48 hours prior to polling day.

Voting day

Government schools and colleges are chosen as polling stations. The Collector of each district is in charge of polling. Government employees are employed to many of the polling stations. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being increasingly used instead of ballot boxes to prevent election fraud via booth capturing, which is heavily prevalent in certain parts of India. An indelible ink is applied usually on the left index finger of the voter as an indicator that the voter has cast his vote. This practice has been followed since the 1962 general elections to prevent bogus voting.

“None of the above” voting option

“None of the above” is a proposed voting option in India that would allow voters who support none of the candidates available to them to register an official vote of “none of the above”, which is not currently allowed under India election regulation.[8] The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it wished to offer the voter a None of the above button on voting machines; the government, however, has generally opposed this option.[9]

Post elections

After the election day, the EVMs are stored in a strong room under heavy security. After the different phases of the elections are complete, a day is set to count the votes. The votes are tallied typically, the verdict is known within hours. The candidate who has mustered the most votes is declared the winner of the constituency.The party or coalition that has won the most seats is invited by the President to form the new government. The coalition or party must prove its majority in the floor of the house (Lok Sabha) in a vote of confidence by obtaining a simple majority (minimum 50%) of the votes in the house.

Voter registration

For few cities in India, the voter registration forms can be generated online and submitted to the nearest electoral office.

Absentee voting

As of now, India does not have an absentee ballot system. Section 19 of The Representation of the People Act (RPA)-1950[10] allows a person to register to vote if he or she is above 18 years of age and is an ‘ordinary resident’ of the residing constituency i.e. living at the current address for 6 months or longer. Section 20 of the above Act disqualifies a non-resident Indian (NRI) from getting his/her name registered in the electoral rolls. Consequently, it also prevents a NRI from casting his/her vote in elections to the Parliament and to the State Legislatures.In August 2010, Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill-2010 which allows voting rights to NRI’s was passed in both Lok Sabha with subsequent gazette notifications on Nov 24, 2010.[11] With this NRI’s will now be able to vote in Indian elections but have to be physically present at the time of voting. Several civic society organizations have urged the government to amend the RPA act to allow NRI’s and people on the move to cast their vote through absentee ballot system.[12][13] People for Lok Satta has been actively pushing combination of internet and postal ballot as a viable means for NRI voting.[14]

Top 5 Reasons Youth Should Vote

You live in a democracy and that means that you get a say in who runs your country, and by way of this privilege you also get a say about how your country is run. It is very easy to be blase about your right to vote and take a “whatever, who cares” kind of attitude about it but you shouldn’t brush this great honor off so quickly. Sure registering can be a bit of a chore, and yes, you have to head down to a polling station on voting day to pull your lever which takes some time out of your day and may cost you a few bucks in gas, but whether you know it or not these are very small prices to pay for the right to vote. In some countries people are literally dying to be able to cast a ballot and make a difference. Here, we list five very good reasons that every eligible young person should get out and vote.

The youth vote is sadly underestimated by party analysts.

Yes, it is true, the trend analysts who tell party spindoctors where to target their advertising dollars and public relations efforts traditionally over-look the youth market. Why? Because the sad reality is that election year after election year the percentage of eligible youth who actually register and vote is small when compared with other demographics. This doesn’t mean the youth market isn’t a force, just that it isn’t a main motivator in the drafting of campaign platforms and pre-election advertising. So, like any self-respecting rebellious young person the natural thing to do is go against the grain and do the unexpected. Keep them on their toes, shock them into the 21st century and get out and vote!

The biggest election issues often directly effect the youth of the nation.

The war in Iraq (young soldiers are the ones dying), education funding both public school and post-secondary, employment and job training programs, and reproductive rights issues are just a few of the current hot topics that directly effect the quality of your life RIGHT NOW. Think about the future and the world you will one day “inherit” from the power generation and you can add environmental concerns, fossil fuel consumption, farming and livestock funding (think the food supply is shrinking with every farm that can’t sustain itself) and the list just gets longer. Add any issues that are near and dear to your heart on a personal level and the list becomes a little overwhelming. Don’t vote and you effectively kiss away your ability to have any influence as to how these issues play out in your world, and dude, that’s just lame.

The only way democracy works is if citizens, young and old, are active participants.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, this one is an oldy, but hey let’s face it, it’s also a goody. A government by the people, for the people just can’t work without the people. This is a simple fact. Like a car without an engine, or a computer without a hard drive, a democracy without voters is just a shell and has no power. While it is easy to say “one vote doesn’t make a difference” the reality is that every vote counts… have you heard of Florida? Also you have to remember that as an individual your vote may seem to be little more than a whisper but when your vote is combined with the votes of others who share your views it becomes a voice and the more like-voters there are the louder that voice grows. So get out there and make the youth vote be heard.

If you don’t vote you really have no right to complain about government decisions you don’t like (no matter how much they actually suck).

OK, if there is one thing that is really annoying to us actual voters it is the endless ramblings on the bad political policy of a current government spewing from the mouths of eligible voters who never bothered to cast a ballot. If you don’t vote it is like saying you don’t care how your country is run, so if you don’t care where do you get the idea that you can complain when something happens that you don’t like? If you don’t vote you really have no right complaining about anything the government does and if your like most young people you like complaining and have it down to a fine art. Want the right to complain when TPTB (the powers that be) make a truly heinous decision? Then you must exercise your right to vote.

Bottom line: you should vote because you can.

Voting is a tremendous gift. Believe it or not, young people just like you in other countries actually fight and even die for this right; a right that so many youth in democratic nations take for granted. You should vote because you can, if you don’t you may one day wake up in a country where you can’t. It can (and has) happened. Enough said! Need more information? Help registering? Understanding registration deadlines in your state? Just want to know the issues? Check out these fine websites created with YOUth in mind.

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