17th January 2022

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Common voters list

The prime minister’s office met earlier this month with representatives of the Election Commission and the Ministry of Justice to discuss the possibility of having a common voters list for the panchayat, municipality, State assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often talked about a single voters list. Here are the reasons why we have different voters lists and why the government wants to change that.

How many types of electoral lists do we have in our country and why this distinction?

In many states, the voters list for the panchayat and municipal elections is different from that used for parliamentary and assembly elections. The distinction comes from the fact that the supervision and conduct of elections in our country is entrusted to two constitutional authorities: the Election Commission (EC) of India and the State Election Commissions (SEC). Established in 1950, the EC is responsible for the conduct of elections to the offices of the President and Vice President of India, as well as to Parliament, State Assemblies and Legislative Councils.

  • The SEC, meanwhile, oversees municipal and panchayat elections. They are free to prepare their own electoral lists for the elections of local bodies, and this exercise does not need to be coordinated with the EC.

So, do all states have a separate voters list for their local elections?

  • No. Each SEC is governed by separate state law. Some state laws allow the SEC to borrow and use the entire EC voters list for local elections. In others, the state commission uses the EC voters list as the basis for preparing and revising the lists for municipal and panchayat elections.
  • Currently, all states except Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, ‘Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir adopt EC listings for agency surveys local.

Why is the Union government working on a common voters list for elections to all local bodies, state assemblies and Lok Sabha?

  • First, the joint voters list is one of the promises made by the BJP in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections last year. It concerns the party’s commitment to hold elections to Lok Sabha, state assemblies and local bodies simultaneously, which is also mentioned in the manifesto.
  • The current government has established a common voters list and simultaneous elections in order to save enormous effort and expense. He argued that preparing a separate voters list results in the duplication of the same task essentially between two different agencies, thus doubling the effort and expense.
  • The proposal for a single voters list is not new. The Law Commission recommended this in its 255th report in 2015. The EC also adopted a similar position in 1999 and 2004.

How does the government intend to implement it?

  • At the meeting called by the Prime Minister’s office on August 13, two options were discussed.
  • First, a constitutional amendment to Articles 243K and 243ZA which gives the SEC the power to supervise, direct and control the preparation of electoral lists and the conduct of elections of local bodies.
  • The amendment would impose a single voters list for all elections in the country. Second, persuade state governments to change their respective laws and adopt the Election Commission (EC) voters list for municipal and panchayat polls.
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