I am a 27-year-old politically aware citizen of India who has never voted in her life.
‘Cause I am what you’d call an internal migrant – someone who has moved from one place to another for education, livelihood or other reason.
Like me, there are 139 million internal migrants (including those who have moved within a state and those who have moved out of a state) if you go by the 2011 census.
So what holds back internal migrants like me from exercising their voting rights?
Well, time and money.
The exceptions being voters on election duty, service voters and special voters –people working for the Indian army or the Govt of India but are posted away from their constituency – and wives of the aforementioned people.
Here is a detailed list.
Since I am none of the above:
The Unofficial Poll Tax
For me to cast my vote, I have to take a leave from work for at least three days, book a flight or a train to West Bengal from New Delhi. The entire process will cost me anything north of Rs 5,000 by moderate estimates.
While this figure may vary for the rest of the 43.37 cr people in India who identify as an internal migrant, why should there be any sort of poll tax to exercise my right as a citizen?
It turns out that apart from the above mentioned list, there is another group that is allowed to vote remotely – the NRIs. Yes, as of 2017, the Non-Resident Indians can cast their vote in Indian elections remotely through a method of proxy voting.
Setting up remote polling stations, Internet voting, and postal ballots were also considered but rejected due to security, privacy and logistical reasons.
So why was the proxy voting never considered for the 139 million internal migrants in the country?
I reached out to Vinod Zutshi, former deputy election commissioner, to understand this better. This is what he had to say:
“The committee that I chaired only dwelled on options for overseas electors to be able to cast their vote more transparently. We did discuss this informally in passing when assessing Internet voting as an option for NRIs. From the perspective of a level playing field, even internal migrants would want to be able to vote when they are travelling away on the voting day. But otherwise, there was no structured discussion on the matter. Mostly because it is very difficult to account for voters who maybe traveling on election day. For those who have moved to a different constituency, the system allows them to register themselves on a different electoral roll via Form 6.”
Rules For Voting From Different State
I could enlist my name in a new voter’s list that simply? This was news to me.
“Every time you move, you have to request the Electoral Registration Officer of the constituency you have moved to, to enroll your name in the voter list of that particular constituency, and delete your name from the voter list of your previous constituency,” Zutshi further clarified.