New Delhi, Jan 5: The Ministry of External Affairs has suggested to the Election Commission to hold a workshop for its missions in select countries including the US and the UK on the proposed electronic postal ballot facility for overseas Indian electors in preparation for implementing the system.

Sources in the poll panel said the proposed workshop – also to be organised for missions in Australia and the UAE – would be in the form of a webinar and its modalities would be worked out in due course.

The MEA made this suggestion in a recent correspondence with the Election Commission. The Commission would also speak with various NRI associations and ministries which would be involved in the roll-out of the proposed facility which has found support in the MEA, the sources said.

On November 27 last year, the EC had proposed to the government to extend the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) facility, so far available to service voters, to eligible overseas Indian voters.

In a letter to the legislative secretary in the Law Ministry, the Commission said that with the successful execution of ETPBS in case of service voters, it is now “confident” that the facility can also be extended to the overseas electors.

“The Commission is technically and administratively ready to extend this facility in general elections to legislative assemblies of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry,” the poll panel said.

Elections in these states are due sometime in April-May.

The EC said it has been receiving several representations from Indian diaspora abroad to facilitate voting through postal ballots since such overseas electors are not in a position to be present in their polling area as travelling to India for this purpose is a costly affair and otherwise also they cannot leave the country of their residence owing to specific compulsions of employment, education or other engagements. “Due to protocols associated with Covid-19, the problem further gets compounded,” the letter to the Law Ministry said.

The Commission observed that Section 62 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 envisages the right to vote for every citizen registered in the electoral roll who is not subject to disqualification for voting. “Therefore, it is necessary to explore all avenues to enable exercise of a franchise by all eligible electors,” it said.

As of now, overseas Indians are free to cast their votes in the constituencies they are registered. Unofficial data with the EC shows that only 10,000-12,000 overseas voters have exercised their franchise because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India and vote. – PTI