NEW DELHI: As many as 77 lakh persons with disabilities (
) and 1.5 crore senior citizens above 80 years of age have been mapped by the Election Commission for targeted interventions such as postal ballot facility, even as avenues are being explored for the inclusion of migrant workers next, to make the elections more accessible and inclusive.
Meanwhile, the active encouragement of women over the years to enroll as voters and also cast their franchise has pushed up the number of female electors by 236% since 1971 and reversed the gender gap with women’s participation in 2019 general election exceeding that of men by 0.17%.
Sharing these statistics at a virtual meet of the
Asian Regional Forum
(ARF) comprising representatives of election management bodies (EMBs) of various countries, chief election commissioner
said there was scope to explore the possibility of remote voting for inclusion of migrant voters as well as marginalized voters “and end barriers in the electoral processes more effectively”.
Kumar, in his keynote address at the meet themed on ‘Making our elections inclusive, accessible and participative”, organised here on Wednesday ahead of the ‘global summit for electoral democracy’ due next month in
, said that democracy and democratic institutions flourish when all groups of people are fully represented. “No democracy can ever be meaningful and aspirational, unless it is inclusive for all citizens, accessible without fear or favour and participative despite differential social, political, economic vulnerabilities,” he stated.
The CEC exhorted all EMBs to conduct continuous self-evaluation and suggested that the framework for assessment and ranking of democracies by global evaluating agencies should be objective and contextual, factoring in the magnitude, socio, cultural & geographical context in which each country and
Kumar insisted that ‘inclusion’ must cover all manner of marginalized communities – those marginalized by region, geography, literacy, language, ethnicity, economy, gender, disability among others to ensure their voices are heard and they are able to express their voting rights. He added that whenever a new technology is designed or a new service is adopted by the EMB, accessibility should be part of the design itself and not added on later as an afterthought.
The CEC cautioned the EMBs about the opportunities and challenges emerging from ever increasing outreach through social media “which also assumes criticality in terms of legal, regulatory framework and limitations across geographies to address fake news/narratives and surrogate advertising”.
Anup Chandra Pandey
, in his address, urged all EMBs to make sustained efforts to engage and involve women, third gender, PwDs, senior citizens and other marginalized groups in the election process.
Representatives from EMBs of Mexico, Mauritius, Philippines, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Maldives, International IDEA, Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) and
International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES), apart from senior EC officials, participated in the meet meant as a forum for EMBs to reflect upon the changing geo-politics, emerging technologies and their use in election management in view of the challenges presented by Covid-19 pandemic.