Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Gujarat firms sign MoU with Election Commission, to name, and shame workers who don’t vote

Date:

Recently, for the first time, over a thousand business entities in Gujarat have signed agreements with the Election Commission (EC), committing to track the “electoral participation of their workers” and post the names of individuals who don’t vote on their websites or office notice boards.

What is the issue?

  • Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) revealed that EC has signed 233 MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) that will assist to enforce the Election Commission’s guidelines.
  • EC will track the voting behavior of the workers employed by 1,017 industrial entities in Gujarat for the first time.
    • Individual units and industrial organizations have signed memorandums of understanding, and efforts to enlist more will continue up until election day.

Background

  • The EC had requested public sector organizations, businesses with 500 or more employees, and departments of the federal and state governments to designate nodal officers to track down workers who take leave on election day but don’t cast their vote.
  • As per the chief election commissioner, four of the seven districts with the lowest voting percentage in the general elections of 2019 were urban areas.
  • The voting rate is typically lower in metropolitan regions, which lowers the overall voting rate.
  • So the EC had taken efforts to increase the participation of voters in the election procedure.

Why is it required to increase voter participation?

  • Voting as a civic duty: Voting is frequently compared to other similar civic duties, like taxation.
  • The political legitimacy of Democracy: Higher voter turnout legitimizes the formation of a Government or state which is the foundation of democracy.
  • Promotion of Politics: Other benefits attributed to voting participation include the promotion of politics with broader interests, which serves as a type of political stimulation and civil education and improves public knowledge.
  • Participation in the decision-making process: Voting is a necessary means of expressing enthusiasm for debate about current topics that shouldn’t be limited to social media.

What are the potential issues with this?

  • In India, the right to vote supersedes the obligation to vote.
  • Legal experts in the US contend that mandated voting is fundamentally an act of compelled speech that breaches the right to free speech because the freedom to speak entails the freedom to remain silent.
  • For weaker groups like migratory laborers, voting expenses may typically outweigh the anticipated advantages.

Election Commission India

  • On January 25, 1950, the Election Commission was constituted in accordance with the Constitution.
  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional body responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
  • It administers elections of the offices of the President and Vice President of India, to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, and State Legislative Councils.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Part XV of the Constitution (Articles 324 to 329) and the Representation of People Act both specify the body’s powers, appointments, and responsibilities.

Composition

  • The commission initially consisted exclusively of the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners make up its present membership.
  • Two new Commissioners were appointed for the first time on October 16th, 1989, however, they only served until January 1st, 1990.
  • Later, two additional Election Commissioners were appointed on October 1st, 1993.
  • Since then, the idea of a multi-member commission with majority voting authority has been in use.

Appointment, Tenure, and Privileges:

  • Election commissioners and the chief election commissioner are appointed by the president.
  • They can serve for six years or until they become 65, whichever comes first.
  • They have the same status as Supreme Court of India judges, and they receive the same pay and benefits.
  • Only parliamentary impeachment can allow the Chief Election Commissioner to be removed from his or her position.

Removal

  • They can resign at any time or be removed before their term.
  • Similar to a Supreme Court judge, only a President’s order may remove the CEC from office.

Power and Functions of ECI

  • Identifying the national territorial boundaries of the electoral constituencies.
  • Creating electoral rolls, which are then periodically revised, and enrolling all eligible voters.
  • Distributing election schedules and dates and reviewing nomination forms.
  • The process of recognizing political parties and assigning them electoral insignia.
  • The Commission has advising authority over the post-election disqualification of members of the State Legislature and the Parliament.
  • In order to prevent unfair practices or arbitrary power abuse by those in authority, it issues the Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates during elections.
  • According to the Constitution, the Commission also has to advise authority over the post-election disqualification of members of the State Legislatures and the Parliament.
  • A candidate who fails to file an account of his election expenses within the deadline and in the manner specified by law may be disqualified by the Commission.
  • Additionally, the Commission has the authority to shorten or eliminate the duration of such disqualifications as well as other disqualifications under

Way Forward

  • It is clear that greater participation does not always imply higher-quality participation or a more vibrant democracy with mandatory voting.
  • There is also a legitimate concern that increasing voting participation may encourage candidates to buy more votes, particularly in countries like India where there have already been reports of cash-for-vote fraud.
  • Making voting mandatory also eliminates the choice to abstain as a form of protest.
  • No one contests the advantages of increased and educated voter turnout for democracy, but instead of going the mandatory route for greater voter involvement, technology can be used to accomplish this goal.

Source: Indian Express, prepp

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