Right To Vote- A Fundamental Right
- 25 Jan 2023
The right to vote is a fundamental right in any democratic society. It is the cornerstone of our democracy, allowing citizens to have a say in who governs them and how they are governed. The ability to vote is not only a right, but a responsibility, as it ensures that the voices of all citizens are heard and that their interests are represented in the government.
The right to vote is not just a privilege, but a basic human right. It is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) . In many countries, the right to vote is also protected by national constitutions.
Right to Vote in India
The right to vote in the Constitution of India is guaranteed under Article 326. This article states that "the elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basis of adult suffrage; that is to say, every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than 18 years of age on such date as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate Legislature and is not otherwise disqualified under this Constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime or corrupt or illegal practices, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election."
Right to Vote in the United States Constitution
The right to vote is not explicitly mentioned in the United States Constitution. However, the Constitution does provide the framework for the federal government to regulate the voting process through the Elections Clause, which grants Congress the power to "make or alter" laws related to the "Manner" of holding federal elections. Additionally, the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War (1861 –1865), prohibit discrimination in voting on the basis of race or color. The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, prohibits discrimination in voting on the basis of sex. The 26th amendment, ratified in 1971, prohibits discrimination in voting on the basis of age for those 18 years or older.
History of Voting Rights in Different Countries
The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of democracy, and the history of voting rights varies greatly across different countries. The history of the right to vote is long and varied. In Ancient Greece, the right to vote was generally limited to adult male citizens. Women, slaves, and non-citizens were not considered citizens and therefore did not have the right to vote. The exact method of voting varied by city-state, but in most cases, voting was done through a show of hands or by casting a small stone or disc into a designated container.
In Athens, the most famous ancient Greek city-state, voting was done by a system called sortition, where citizens were randomly selected to serve as government officials and to vote on laws. However, this system was only for the wealthy class citizens.
In the United States, the right to vote was initially limited to white, male property owners. Over time, the right to vote has been expanded to include more groups of people, such as women and minorities. It wasn't until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870 that black men were granted the right to vote. However, it wasn't until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that voting discrimination against minorities was effectively banned. Women, however, were not granted the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.
In the United Kingdom, the right to vote has been gradually expanded over time. The Great Reform Act of 1832 extended the right to vote to more men, but it wasn't until 1918 that all men over 21 were granted the right to vote. Women over 30 were granted the right to vote in 1918, and in 1928 the voting age for women was lowered to match that of men.
In France, the right to vote was initially limited to property-owning men. It wasn't until 1848, with the establishment of the Second Republic, that all men over 21 were granted the right to vote. Women were not granted the right to vote until 1944.
In India, the right to vote was granted to all citizens over the age of 21 by the Constitution of India in 1950. However, prior to that, the Indian National Congress had been fighting for voting rights for Indians since the early 1900s. India has a long history of political mobilization and resistance movements that finally led to the Indian Independence in 1947 and the right to vote for all citizens.
The right to vote has been a hard-won right for many citizens around the world, and the history of voting rights is often closely tied to the broader struggle for political and social equality. Today, many countries continue to work towards expanding voting rights and ensuring that all citizens have an equal say in the political process.
Despite these advances, the right to vote is still not universally guaranteed. Many countries around the world still deny certain groups of people the right to vote, either through laws or through discrimination and intimidation. This is unacceptable, and efforts must be made to ensure that all citizens have the right to vote and that their votes are counted fairly.
National Voters’ Day
Election Commission of India is celebrating 13th National Voters’ Day on 25th January 2023.
Hon’ble President of India Smt. Droupadi Murmu is the Chief Guest at the national function being organized in New Delhi by the Election Commission of India. Union Minister for Law and Justice, Shri Kiren Rijiju is gracing the function as Guest of Honour.
The theme for this year’s NVD, ‘Nothing Like Voting, I Vote for Sure’ is dedicated to voters which conveys individual’s feeling and aspiration towards participation in the electoral process through power of their vote.
Ensuring Right to Vote
One way to ensure that all citizens have the right to vote is to make voting as accessible as possible.
- This includes measures such as automatic voter registration, early voting, and mail-in voting.
- It also includes measures to make voting accessible to people with disabilities, such as accessible polling places and voting equipment.
Another way to ensure the right to vote is through education. Citizens need to be informed about the candidates and issues on the ballot, as well as their rights as voters. This is especially important for young people, who are often the least likely to vote.
The right to vote is a basic human right that is essential for the functioning of a democratic society. It is the foundation of our democracy and must be protected and expanded for all citizens. Every vote counts and every citizen deserves the right to vote.
Right to Vote of Non-Resident Indians and Prisoners in India
Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are Indian citizens who live outside of India and are not considered to be residents of India for tax purposes.
- Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950.
- An NRI can vote in the constituency in his/her place of residence, as mentioned in the passport, is located.
- He/ she can only vote in person and will have to produce her passport in original at the polling station to establish identity.
In the winter session of Parliament in 2017, the government proposed to remove the restriction imposed by Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act.
- 20A of the Representation of the People Act required them to be physically present to vote in their constituencies.
- The Bill provided for overseas voters to be able to appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf, subject to conditions laid down in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
- The Bill was later passed in 2018, but lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
- The ECI then approached the government to permit NRIs to vote via postal ballots.
- Postal ballots are similar to a system that is already used by service voters (a member of the armed Forces of the Union; or member of a force to which provisions of the Army Act, 1950 are applicable) which is the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System or ETPBS.
As for prisoners in India, they are not entitled to vote in the elections as per the Representation of the People Act, 1950, which disqualifies people who are serving a sentence of imprisonment for not less than two years. This means that prisoners who have been sentenced to less than two years in prison are still allowed to vote. Undertrial prisoners are also excluded from participating in elections even if their names are on the electoral rolls. Only those under preventive detention can cast their vote through postal ballots.
Significance of Voting
The importance of voting is highlighted by Abraham Lincoln's philosophy of democracy, which states that democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Through voting, people can have a sense of ownership over their government and bring about change. Voting also allows individuals to express their thoughts on a country, local constituency, or candidate.
The voter turnout for the just-concluded Lok Sabha poll (2019) was the highest ever at a tentative 67.11% across 542 constituencies, barring Vellore where polls were rescinded, and is 1.16 percentage points higher than 65.95% turnout in 2014.
- Recent reforms have included a more scientific approach to researching voter behavior, as well as the addition of the "NOTA" Option, which allows voters to choose not to select any nominated candidate.
- The National Voters' Day serves to educate new voters on the importance of their vote and responsibility to participate in elections.
- The Election Commission of India also prioritizes accessibility for disadvantaged groups and has implemented Model Polling Booths to cater to women, children, and older individuals.
- The Systematic Voter's Education and Electoral Participation program aims to fill gaps in voter participation.
- Additionally, the Indian Election System has been made more flexible, including the introduction of VVPAT machines for transparency and the decriminalization of elections through the declaration of criminal records by candidates.
However, challenges still remain, such as financing of elections, the misuse of social media, and proxy voting for non-resident Indians. Efforts should also be made to facilitate voting for inter-migrants and to address the entry of criminals into politics. Alternative methods of elections, such as Proportional Representation System, should also be considered. The strength of Indian democracy can be further strengthened when all parties and stakeholders take their responsibility seriously and contribute to electoral reform.
After pursuing Master's in Political Science from Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University, she engrossed herself in Content Writing. Apart from being honest and a kind person, she is a good learner with the motto of "Live and let live".Blogs Home