National Voters' Day is celebrated all across the country on January 25 every year since 2011, to mark the foundation day of the Election Commission of India, i.e. 25th January 1950. The main purpose of the National Voters Day celebration is to encourage, facilitate and maximize enrolment, especially for new voters. Election Commission of India is a Constitutional Body created under Article 324 of the Constitution of India. The first Chief Election Commissioner was appointed on 21st March 1950. Since its creation, the Commission was a single member body except for a brief period from 16th October 1989 to 1st January 1990 when it was converted into a three member body. Subsequently, since 1st October 1993, the Commission has been a three-member body, consisting of the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners. President Ram Nath Kovind, virtually graced and addressed the 11th National Voters’ Day Celebrations, organised by the Election Commission of India, on Monday. During the event, the President conferred the National Awards for the year 2020-21 and also launched the Election Commission of India’s Web Radio: ‘Hello Voters’ – an online digital radio service. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that on National Voters’ Day, he would like to remind everyone that we should always respect the valuable right to vote. The right to vote is not a simple right; people around the world have struggled a lot for this. Since independence, our Constitution has given equal voting rights to all citizens without any discrimination on the basis of merit, religion, race and caste. For this, we are indebted to the makers of our Constitution. In this edition of the Big Picture we will analyse how to empower Voters and strengthen democracy.
Edited Excerpts from the debate
What is voter’s day celebrated? What is its significance?
The founders of the Constitution gave two things to India, by looking at the future of the democracy:
Universal Adult Suffrage: the power to vote to ordinary citizens, irrespective of the level of literacy, poverty and the chaos of what was there at the time of independence.
Election Commission of India: It created the operational machinery of the ECI.
Article 324 of the Constitution states that there must be an Election Commission in India. The members of ECI are appointed by the President of India.
Over a period of time, as India moved from 1950s, right up to the election of 2019 and then several state general elections, one trend was found that India is the largest functional democracy and it has an electorate which is perhaps the aggregate of many populations of countries together but there is definitely democracy deficit which was noticed sometimes around 2009-2011.
People who were supposed to register and qualified to register on the electoral roll were not doing that once registered, all the people were not voting.
This trend definitely pointed to a democracy deficit that is where a program called, which is now a flagship programme of ECI, ‘Systematic Voters Education Electoral Participation (SEEP)’ came in 2010.
Quickly following the program, National Voters Day was adopted to expand enrolment to have all the people added to the electorate, and particularly, the new and young voters.
The day is a celebration of people getting their on the electoral roll, getting on the bandwagon which really determines the future of democracy.
Other major initiatives include:
the Electoral Literacy Club (ELC) Programme
all Women Managed Polling Station initiative
What has been done over the years to empower the voters? What is the role of the ECI?
Simplifying the process with technology: Over the years, the ECI has made the process easier to enroll the voter on the electorate roll with the help of technology.
Using popular face to raise awareness: A major innovative concept that has been evolved over the years by the ECI is to try and bring brand ambassadors (popular person) to increase awareness and encourage people to come and vote.
During the event of NVD 2021, the President of India launched ECI’s Web Radio:‘Hello Voters.
This online digital radio service will stream voter awareness programmes.
It will be accessible through a link on the Election Commission of India website.
The programming style of Radio Hello Voters has been envisaged to match that of popular FM radio services.
It will provide information and education on electoral processes through songs, drama, discussions, spots, stories of elections etc. in Hindi, English and regional languages from all over the country.
e-EPIC (Electronic Electoral Photo Identity Card)
The Election Commission formally launched the e-EPIC (Electronic Electoral Photo Identity Card) programme.
A non-editable secure portable document (PDF) version of the e-EPIC, will have a secured QR code with image and demographics like serial number, part number, etc. e-EPIC can be downloaded on a mobile or a computer and can be digitally stored.
Why is it important to vote?
Constitutional right: Voting is a constitutional right of the citizen of India. The constitution has given this right to elect and make the change.
Agent of change: Even a single vote can play an important part in making the change.
Every vote counts: Though it seems like an endless sea of people are there to vote, every vote counts.
The National Voters Day is an occasion to appreciate the remarkable contribution of the Election Commission of India, to strengthen our democratic fabric and ensure smooth conduct of elections. The day effectively spreads awareness on the need of ensuring voter registration, particularly among the youth.
What is National Voters’ Day?
National Voters' Day is observed annually on 25 January in order to encourage more young voters to take part in the polling process.
The day has been observed on January 25 every year since 2011 to mark the foundation day of the Election Commission of India.
Theme: ‘Making Our Voters Empowered, Vigilant, Safe and Informed.’
Objectives of the day
The day is a systematic attempt of the ECI periodically to:
To enroll and also to bring the voters along on the electorate rolls.
To spread awareness about the importance of voting in a democracy
To educate and encourage young voters to vote during elections.
Why 25th January is chosen for the day?
The Election Commission of India was founded on 25 January 1950.
During the rallies in the government campus in 2011, a union cabinet meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accepted the Law Ministry's proposal to enact 25 Jan as National Voters' Day.
Who can vote?
As per the Election commission of India, citizens are eligible to become voters under the following conditions:
Every citizen who is 18 years old on the qualifying date (January 1 of the year in case) unless disqualified, is eligible to be enrolled.
Enrollment only at ordinary place of residence.
Enrollment only at one place.
Overseas Indian deemed to be ordinarily resident at the address given in passport.
Service voters deemed to be ordinarily resident at their home address.
How do Elections work?
The Lok Sabha - Members of the Lok Sabha are elected through general elections. These elections take place every five years. There are two members of the Lok Sabha who will be nominated by the President of India.
The Rajya Sabha - The members are elected by the elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies, and the Electoral college of the Union Territories. Therefore, the members of the Rajya Sabha are indirectly elected by the people. The Rajya Sabha has 245 members out of which 233 members are elected for 6-year terms. One-third of the house retires every two years.
Prime Minister - The Prime Minister is elected by the elected members of the Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha is the lower house of parliament in India.
President - The President of India is elected for a 5-year term by an electoral college which consists of members of the State Legislatures and Federal Legislatures.