Govt mulls single voter list for LS, assembly elections

Govt explores possibility of single voter list for LS, assembly, local body polls

 Representative Image. Credit: PTI Photo

The government IS discussing the possibility of having a common electoral roll for Lok Sabha, assembly and local body elections to avoid discrepancies and bring uniformity in the voters list, officials said on Saturday.

At present, the Election Commission prepares the electoral roll or voter list for Lok Sabha and assembly polls. The state election commissions, which are altogether separate bodies as per constitutional provisions, hold elections for local bodies such as municipalities and panchayats in their respective states based on their own voter lists.

Several state election commissions use the draft voter list of the EC to formulate their own rolls. The draft EC roll is often divided into wards for local body elections.

Now, the Centre is exploring the possibility of having a single voter list for Lok Sabha, assembly and local body polls as this can help bring in uniformity and also save costs involved in an entire exercise getting repeated for making separate voter lists, officials said.

There are provisions in the Constitution that empower states to formulate their own laws to hold panchayat and municipal polls. States also have powers to either have their own voter lists or to adopt the one prepared by the EC for assembly polls.

"The government is discussing whether there can be a single electoral roll for these three types of elections. Now, states have to be persuaded to adopt the central electoral roll ( the one prepared by EC)," explained a senior functionary.

According to another functionary, it is "desirable" to have one common electoral roll as at present an entire exercise gets repeated for the same purpose.

"Money is also spent for the same exercise twice. One roll can be good for voters also and there would be no discrepancy in local body and assembly voter lists," he said.

Often discrepancies have been noticed when names of voters are missing in one of the lists.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister's Office organised a meeting on the issue where top officials of the Law Ministry and the EC gave their views on the present status and the future possibilities.

Asked whether the proposed single electoral roll was linked to the idea of holding simultaneous elections, a government official said the two are not linked as simultaneous polls typically refer to holding Lok Sabha and assembly polls together in the Indian context.

The Election Commission, the Law Commission and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Personnel Ministries have supported the idea of a single voter list in the past also.

In a letter written to the government in November 1999, the Election Commission had said that separate rolls prepared by the EC and State ECs "not only create confusion among the electors because their names may be present in one roll but absent in the other, or vice versa, but also result in duplication of effort and expenditure."

In its report on Demands for Grants (2016-17) of the Law Ministry, the standing committee had also pointed out that  as of now, the EC and State Election Commissions have separate electoral rolls.

"They carry out registration of voters and updation of electoral rolls separately. The numbers of voters in their electoral rolls usually vary," it had said. 

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