Should physical presence of NRIs be required for voting?

Should physical presence of NRIs be required for voting?


The issue of NRIs voting rights has long been on a decision-pending status and even when voting rights were granted to them in 2010, the SC imposed the rule of “physical presence in the locality” for voting. The petition filed by NRI doctor Shamsheer has been seriously taken by SC and it seems that soon we shall have absentee voting or voting through Indian mission abroad. However, the matter still remains debatable whether physical presence is necessary or an unnecessary hindrance for NRIs who are keen in casting their votes.

Yes, physical presence is required:

1. Possibility of fraud voting: Impersonating someone is a big threat with the various processes of absentee voting. It would only require a hacked password or a signature copying to vote in place of another person. This is absolutely avoided with the physical presence of a voter at the voting ballot.

2. Risk of intimidating voters: The process of voting at ballots is a matter of privacy where nobody actually sees what or who the other person is voting for. However, this cannot be assured by any absentee voting method, hence making intimidation of voters easy. This privacy can only be assured by the physical presence of the voter.

3. Unseen and unethical practices: Unethical practices could easily be involved without the physical presence of the voter. We have all heard of how in the 2008 presidential election Obama campaign held “voter parties” where supporters decided to fill out their absentee ballots together. Is there place for independent decision making if a voter decided to vote for Republican in a local race? Another example is of the San Francisco absentee ballots voting manipulation which was in headlines for quite a long time.

4. Confirmation unguaranteed: There is a doubt with online voting as it is for paying bills online. The difference would be that we get to see what has been actually debited from our account to pay the bill and that too after a confirmation is received but with voting online, one cannot be sure that his/her vote actually got registered or simply tossed away.

5. Rejected votes: There have been instance in countries which follow the procedure of absentee voting, where 20% of the absentee votes were not even counted due to signature mismatch or other disqualification issues like mistakes in filling the form, etc. Avoiding these issues require the physical presence of the voter.

6. Late counting: There would be issues of late counting of the absentee vote ballots and most countries that follow the system reports this issue of the votes never being counted on the election night. This can happen due to many reasons including delay with scrutinizing the signatures with the voter’s details and time differences between the countries.

No, physical presence is a hindrance:

1. Travelling issues: Not every Indian working or studying abroad can get leave for coming back to their country for voting and neither it will be economical on everyone’s part to afford the expenses of travelling from, say New York to India. Setting up ballots at Indian mission abroad or mailing ballots would be bliss to all the NRIs who are keen on voting but find it difficult to be physically present during elections.

2. When so many nations including USA, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Lithuania, Hungary, Mexico, Dominion Republic, El Salvador, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nepal, and many more can have the right to vote while being abroad, why can’t India adopt the process too?

3. Wise decisions: Travelling back to India to vote would often include intimidation of vote by near and dear ones and usually those contesting from the same region. With absentee voting method, voters can research online about all the candidates contesting the election along with the details of their education, deeds, criminal records, ect. and make a wise decision based on their own conscience.

4. More turnouts: Only 15% of the total NRIs come back to their region for voting and the rest of them simply lag behind due to the extra costs and travel issues. Indian missions abroad could be a great relief to these and the rest of the NRIs who would get their rights to vote and would stay connected to their mainland.

5. Recently Supreme Court permitted armed forces personnel to vote at their place of posting. When this change could be made for army, then there is no reason why the same could not be done to enable NRIs to vote from the place where they are residing.


NRIs voting through Indian missions abroad and other such modern mechanisms could prove to a great change in the old policy which required the physical presence of NRI voters at the polling booth. The challenges of this system could be tackled by following some strict rules for absentee voting and to ensure the privacy rights of a voter to vote for whichever candidate he/she prefers.
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  • RE: Should physical presence of NRIs be required for voting? -Deepa Kaushik (10/24/14)
  • Voting right for NRIs is very much acceptable. Coming on to the discussion for their physical presence at the time of voting, this is again very much important and required. We are all well aware of our present scenario going on in the country. Everyone is aware of the fact that Indians are good in finding loopholes in the structure to make an easy way out for the illegal and unfair play.

    Being in such a verge of high corruption and crazy heads, it would be definitely difficult to have the option of online voting. Rightly said the online voting being conducted in many other countries across the world don't have a fully satisfactory output.Either the unfair play with absentee voting pops in, or the votes cast by NRIs goes in vain due to lack of time and infrastructure during the counting process. Casting votes with physical presence avoid the fake voting and the time factor doesn't restrict any votes from getting counted.

    It is pretty understandable and acceptable that every visit is quite expensive and time consuming. And it needs an easy way out to resolve their concern for expense with their right to vote. Our government can create polling booths at Indian embassies overseas to manage all sorts of hassle. Such a solution will help in having the physical presence of NRIs at the time of voting in their vicinity