Thursday, 8 March 2012

Postal ballot system needs improvement: experts

While electronic voting machines (EVMs) have replaced paper ballots in India, little has been done to change the old postal ballot system, which is at the centre of a raging controversy in Uttarakhand, experts and top officials today said.
"This is an old age system where we feel that a lot of improvement can be done. It can be done by bringing new software or electronic gadgets that will allow the armed personnel to cast their votes from the place of their posting," said Anil Jaggi, an IT expert here.Despite being a costly affair, the Election Commission has not taken steps to improve the postal ballot system for the armed forces, officials said. The cost of a postal ballot is roughly around Rs 100 per ballot that includes the postage which is to be paid by the state government.
"So far, politicians in our state have not shown any interest to improve the postal ballot system in the state," said a top official of the state election commission.
As a war of words escalated between BJP and Congress over the postal ballot issue in Uttarakhand, the election commission last month had put the onus on the army for the large number of undelivered postal ballots.
The ruling BJP, which banks on the support of army personnel, had asked the commission to clear the air on the controversy pertaining to the undelivered postal ballots.
This time, over 1.19 lakh people including one lakh army personnel are casting their votes through ballot papers and those which reach the counting centre till 8am of March 6 will be taken in account.
Experts said the postal ballots could play a crucial role in as many as 20 constituencies out of the total 70 in the hill state where assembly elections were held on January 30.
Since the time period between the polling and the counting is very long, the election commission is expecting the polling percentage of the postal ballots to be heavy.
Meanwhile, even as BJP general secretary Dharmendra Paradhan, who is incharge of the party affairs in the hill state, accused railways and postal department of not delivering the postal ballots, Congress today slammed the BJP for raking up the issue.
"BJP knows that it has already lost the race. So, it is enacting the drama to distract the people's attention from real issues," said Surendra Kumar, a state Congress spokesman.
In the past, Congress had alleged that postal ballots had marred the chances of their candidates including that of senior Congress leader Satpal Maharaj in the 2008 Pauri Lok Sabha by-election.

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