Election Commission of India
India is a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of governance, and a commitment to holding regular, free, and fair elections at the heart of this system. These elections determine the composition of the government, membership of both houses of parliament, state and union territory legislative assemblies, and the presidency and vice-presidency.
Elections are conducted by the constitutional provisions, supplemented by laws made by the Parliament. The major laws are the Representation of the People Act, 1950, which deals mainly with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls, the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals with all aspects of the conduct of elections, and post-election disputes. The Supreme Court of India has held that where an enacted law is silent or insufficient provisions have been made to deal with a given situation in the conduct of elections, the Election Commission has residuary powers under the Constitution to act appropriately.
Constituency and Reservation of Seats
The country is divided into 543 parliamentary constituencies, each of which elects one MP to the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. The size and appearance of parliamentary constituencies are determined by an independent Delimitation Commission whose objective is to create constituencies that have a broadly uniform population subject to geographical considerations and boundaries of states and administrative regions.
Who can vote?
The democratic system in India is based on this principle of universal adult suffrage; That any citizen of the age of 18 years can vote in the election (before 1989 the age limit was 21 years). The right to vote is without regard to caste, creed, religion, or gender.
People believed to be of unsound mind, and who have been convicted of certain criminal offenses, are not allowed to vote.
The country is divided into distinct geographical regions known as constituencies, and electors can cast one vote for a candidate. The winner is the candidate who gets the most votes.
Polling is generally held on different days in different constituencies so that the security forces and election monitors can maintain law and order and ensure fair polling during elections.
Ballot paper and Symbol
After the process of nomination of candidates is completed, a list of contesting candidates is prepared by the Returning Officer, and the ballot papers are printed. Ballot papers are printed with the names of the candidates and symbols allotted to each candidate. The candidates of recognized parties are allotted their party symbols.
How is Voting?
Voting is by secret ballot. Polling stations are usually set up in public institutions such as schools and community buildings. To ensure that as many electors as possible can cast their votes, the Election Commission officials try to ensure that every voter is within 2 km. There should be a polling station inside.
On entering the polling station, the elector is checked against the electoral roll and allotted a ballot paper. The elector casts his vote by placing a rubber stamp on the ballot paper on or near the symbol of the candidate of his choice within a confidential compartment at the polling station. The voter then folds the ballot paper and drops it into a normal ballot box, which is done entirely before the eyes of the Presiding Officer and the polling agents of the candidates. This process of stamping eliminates the possibility of ballot papers being removed from the polling station out of sight and not being put in the ballot box.
What is an Electronic Voting Machine?
An Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is an electronic device for recording votes. Electronic voting machines are made up of two units – a control unit and a balloting unit – which are connected by a five-meter cable. The Control Unit is kept with the Presiding Officer or Polling Officer and the Ballot Unit is kept inside the polling compartment. Instead of issuing a ballot paper, the Polling Officer in charge of the Control Unit will issue a ballot paper by pressing the Ballot Button on the Control Unit. This will enable the voter to cast his vote by pressing the blue button on the ballot unit in front of the candidate and the symbol of his choice.
What Is The Maximum Number of Candidates For Which EVMs Can Function?
In the case of M2 EVMs (2006-10), a maximum of 64 candidates can be elected including NOTA from EVMs. There is a provision for 16 candidates in a balloting unit. If the total number of candidates is more than 16, then more than one Balloting Unit (one for 16 candidates) can be added up to a maximum of 64 candidates by adding 4 Balloting Units. However, in the case of M3 EVMs (after 2013), the election can be conducted for a maximum of 384 candidates including NOTA by connecting 24 balloting units to the EVM.
EVMs were first used in 1982 in the 70-Parur assembly constituency of Kerala. Whereas after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the process of voting in every Lok Sabha and state assembly election in India is completely done by electronic voting machines. EVMs with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system was used in 8 out of 543 parliamentary constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as a pilot project.
Supervision Of Elections
To ensure that the campaign is conducted fairly and people can vote freely as they wish, the Election Commission appoints a large number of observers. Election Expenditure Observers keep a check on the amount that each candidate and party spends in the election.
Counting of Votes
After the poll is over, the counting of votes is done under the supervision of the Returning Officers and Observers appointed by the Election Commission. After the counting of votes is over, the Returning Officer announces as the winner the name of the candidate who has received the highest number of votes and declared elected by the constituency of the House concerned.