Voting in India Demystified: Handy Guide on What Every Voter Needs

A step-wise guide to voting in India.

Updated
Explainers
5 min read
 Procuring a voter ID card does not qualify an individual to vote until their name is registered in the electoral roll. 
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Snapshot

Polling is underway in 95 Lok Sabha seats spread across 11 states on Thursday, 18 April, in the second phase polling in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

The 2019 general elections officially began on 11 April, as voting kicked off in 91 constituencies across 20 states and union territories on the first day of polling.

In as many as seven phases, roughly 87 crore eligible electors will be partaking in the likely game-changer.

The 2014 general elections saw the highest ever voter turnout in India with 66.4 percent of the electorate casting vote, according to EC data. Out of the total 83.41 crore eligible voters, 55.38 crore people cast their votes. This included roughly 2.3 crore first-time voters.

According to a government notification, the EC is predicting that this year’s general elections will surpass the previous record of highest voter participation, out of which roughly 2.5 crore people are expected to vote for the first time.

With such a wide number of first-time voters, here’s a step-wise guide to voting in India.

Voting in India Demystified: Handy Guide on What Every Voter Needs

  1. 1. Who is Eligible to Vote?

    An Indian citizen who is 18 years and above as of 1 January of the polling year, is eligible to exercise their franchise. Similarly, Indian citizens residing abroad are also eligible to take part in the voting process.

    According to the EC guidelines, only a citizen who is of “unsound mind as declared by a competent court” or is disqualified for “corrupt practices related to elections,” is debarred from voting in India.

    However, in order to vote, it is essential for all the voters to have their names registered in the voter list (also known as the electoral roll) of their respective constituency.

    It should be noted that procuring a voter ID card does not qualify an individual to vote until their name is registered in the electoral roll.
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  2. 2. How to Register for Voter ID Card & Electoral Roll?

    Eligible voters in India are divided into three categories – general voters, NRIs or overseas Indian voters and service voters (Armed Forces working in India and abroad).

    To obtain a voter ID card and register in the electoral roll, the process varies differently for the three categories of voters.

    A general or an NRI voter is required to fill Form 6 and Form 6(A) respectively, available at Electoral Registration Office or National Voters’ Service Portal (NVSP) website.

    A service voter is required register on the Service Voters' Portal by filling Form 2, Form 2(A) or Form 3 depending up on their posting.

    For all the three categories, it is essential to submit:

    • Passport size photograph
    • Age proof such as class 10 or 12 mark sheet, passport, driving license, bank passbook, or Aadhaar card.
    • Address proof such as electricity bill, water bill, passport, driving license, bank passbook or Aadhaar card.

    Additionally, an NRI voter will be required to submit pertinent details of passport and visa.

    Once submitted, the eligible voter will receive a reference number that can later be used to track the process time of the application, which usually takes up to 30 days. The entire registration process for all the categories is free of cost.

    After the application is processed, the voter ID card is either delivered by post or the Booth Level Officer (BLO) of the area to the current address. A service voter can also receive the voter ID card from the unit officer.

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  3. 3. How to Check Name in Electoral Roll?

    To check whether the name of the voter is registered in the electoral roll, general and NRI voters can either visit the Electoral Registration Office of their constituency (or Indian Missions in case of NRI voters) or via electoral search portal.

    Service voters can either visit the Electoral Registration office of their current location, approach the unit officer or log on to Service Voters' Portal website.

    During this process, the individual will be required to provide basic details such as name and residential information or Electors’ Photo Identity Card (EPIC) number which is issued on the voter ID card.

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  4. 4. How to Update Voter Registration Information?

    In case of incorrect voter information, the concerned person will be required to fill Form 8 available on the NVSP website.

    During this process, the EIPC number issued on the voter ID card, along with the serial number and the part number of the electoral role that can be attained from electoral search portal, will be required for submission.

    In the case of a change in the constituency of the voter, as per EC guidelines, this can be only attained only after updating the current place of residence.

    The person will be required to delete information from the previous electoral roll by filling Form 7 and re-applying by submitting Form 6.

    If the current place of residence is registered under the name of the landlord which is further detailed in the electricity or water bill, the voter will then need to update the current address in the bank passbook or Aadhaar card, to pass the document as an address proof.

    Similarly, if the new residence is in the same constituency, the update can be made by filling Form 8A which needs to submitted to the Election Registration Officer or the Assistant Electoral Registration Officers (AERO) of the constituency.

    The application time for this process will again take nearly 30 days and can be tracked on NVSP website.

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  5. 5. Where and How to Cast Vote?

    The venue of the polling station and the time for voting is informed by the EC.

    On the day of the polling, voters need to get their identification verified from the First Polling Officer which is mandatory as per EC norms. This can be done by showing their voter ID card or other form identification documents approved by the EC.

    Once the identification is cleared, voters need to go to the Second Polling officer who will register their names and other information in the Register of Voters. This stage will be concluded with the Second Polling officer handing over a signed voter slip that will later be provided to the Third Polling officer by the voter.

    The officer will also mark the left forefinger of the voter with an indelible ink.

    Finally, the Third Polling Officer will take the voter slip and press the ballot button on the control unit of balot machine. This will activate the electronic voting machine (EVM) kept in a voting compartment.

    The officer will further direct the voter to the voting compartment where the vote will be recorded on the EVM. To verify that the vote cast by the voter went to the right candidate, a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine will display a slip bearing the name of the candidate and the party symbol for seven seconds. This slip cannot be taken back by the voter and is accessed by the EC officials.

    If under any circumstance, the voter decides not to cast vote, the preceding officer needs to be informed so that relevant updates can be made on the Register of Voters.

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  6. 6. What is Postal Ballot & Proxy Voting?

    In special cases, the EC allows service voters to cast vote using ballot paper if the voter is away from the constituency during the polling date. This is only acknowledged when the paper bears the signature of commanding officer and sent with a declaration written on Form 13A. It is further sent to EC via postal, thereby referring to the process as voting by postal ballot.

    In 2016, the Indian government launched an e-postal ballot system to ease the delay experienced in the postal ballot system.

    The government also allows service voters to opt for proxy voting, that is the voter can nominate a representative from their constituency to vote on its behalf.

    Similarly, a bill was passed in Lok Sabha in 2018 to extend proxy voting to NRI voters, who were earlier required to vote only from their respective constituency. However, the bill lapsed after the Budget session this year, as it failed to secure the nod in Rajya Sabha.

    A general voter can neither opt for proxy voting or postal ballot.

    (The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

    Expand

Who is Eligible to Vote?

An Indian citizen who is 18 years and above as of 1 January of the polling year, is eligible to exercise their franchise. Similarly, Indian citizens residing abroad are also eligible to take part in the voting process.

According to the EC guidelines, only a citizen who is of “unsound mind as declared by a competent court” or is disqualified for “corrupt practices related to elections,” is debarred from voting in India.

However, in order to vote, it is essential for all the voters to have their names registered in the voter list (also known as the electoral roll) of their respective constituency.

It should be noted that procuring a voter ID card does not qualify an individual to vote until their name is registered in the electoral roll.

How to Register for Voter ID Card & Electoral Roll?

Eligible voters in India are divided into three categories – general voters, NRIs or overseas Indian voters and service voters (Armed Forces working in India and abroad).

To obtain a voter ID card and register in the electoral roll, the process varies differently for the three categories of voters.

A general or an NRI voter is required to fill Form 6 and Form 6(A) respectively, available at Electoral Registration Office or National Voters’ Service Portal (NVSP) website.

A service voter is required register on the Service Voters' Portal by filling Form 2, Form 2(A) or Form 3 depending up on their posting.

For all the three categories, it is essential to submit:

  • Passport size photograph
  • Age proof such as class 10 or 12 mark sheet, passport, driving license, bank passbook, or Aadhaar card.
  • Address proof such as electricity bill, water bill, passport, driving license, bank passbook or Aadhaar card.

Additionally, an NRI voter will be required to submit pertinent details of passport and visa.

Once submitted, the eligible voter will receive a reference number that can later be used to track the process time of the application, which usually takes up to 30 days. The entire registration process for all the categories is free of cost.

After the application is processed, the voter ID card is either delivered by post or the Booth Level Officer (BLO) of the area to the current address. A service voter can also receive the voter ID card from the unit officer.

How to Check Name in Electoral Roll?

To check whether the name of the voter is registered in the electoral roll, general and NRI voters can either visit the Electoral Registration Office of their constituency (or Indian Missions in case of NRI voters) or via electoral search portal.

Service voters can either visit the Electoral Registration office of their current location, approach the unit officer or log on to Service Voters' Portal website.

During this process, the individual will be required to provide basic details such as name and residential information or Electors’ Photo Identity Card (EPIC) number which is issued on the voter ID card.

How to Update Voter Registration Information?

In case of incorrect voter information, the concerned person will be required to fill Form 8 available on the NVSP website.

During this process, the EIPC number issued on the voter ID card, along with the serial number and the part number of the electoral role that can be attained from electoral search portal, will be required for submission.

In the case of a change in the constituency of the voter, as per EC guidelines, this can be only attained only after updating the current place of residence.

The person will be required to delete information from the previous electoral roll by filling Form 7 and re-applying by submitting Form 6.

If the current place of residence is registered under the name of the landlord which is further detailed in the electricity or water bill, the voter will then need to update the current address in the bank passbook or Aadhaar card, to pass the document as an address proof.

Similarly, if the new residence is in the same constituency, the update can be made by filling Form 8A which needs to submitted to the Election Registration Officer or the Assistant Electoral Registration Officers (AERO) of the constituency.

The application time for this process will again take nearly 30 days and can be tracked on NVSP website.

Where and How to Cast Vote?

The venue of the polling station and the time for voting is informed by the EC.

On the day of the polling, voters need to get their identification verified from the First Polling Officer which is mandatory as per EC norms. This can be done by showing their voter ID card or other form identification documents approved by the EC.

Once the identification is cleared, voters need to go to the Second Polling officer who will register their names and other information in the Register of Voters. This stage will be concluded with the Second Polling officer handing over a signed voter slip that will later be provided to the Third Polling officer by the voter.

The officer will also mark the left forefinger of the voter with an indelible ink.

Finally, the Third Polling Officer will take the voter slip and press the ballot button on the control unit of balot machine. This will activate the electronic voting machine (EVM) kept in a voting compartment.

The officer will further direct the voter to the voting compartment where the vote will be recorded on the EVM. To verify that the vote cast by the voter went to the right candidate, a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine will display a slip bearing the name of the candidate and the party symbol for seven seconds. This slip cannot be taken back by the voter and is accessed by the EC officials.

If under any circumstance, the voter decides not to cast vote, the preceding officer needs to be informed so that relevant updates can be made on the Register of Voters.

What is Postal Ballot & Proxy Voting?

In special cases, the EC allows service voters to cast vote using ballot paper if the voter is away from the constituency during the polling date. This is only acknowledged when the paper bears the signature of commanding officer and sent with a declaration written on Form 13A. It is further sent to EC via postal, thereby referring to the process as voting by postal ballot.

In 2016, the Indian government launched an e-postal ballot system to ease the delay experienced in the postal ballot system.

The government also allows service voters to opt for proxy voting, that is the voter can nominate a representative from their constituency to vote on its behalf.

Similarly, a bill was passed in Lok Sabha in 2018 to extend proxy voting to NRI voters, who were earlier required to vote only from their respective constituency. However, the bill lapsed after the Budget session this year, as it failed to secure the nod in Rajya Sabha.

A general voter can neither opt for proxy voting or postal ballot.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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