Common Electoral Roll : Analysis – UPSC GS2

Context: Law and Justice Minister told the Rajya Sabha that the Centre was not planning on amending the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to enable a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections to all electoral bodies in the country.
What is the Common Electoral Roll?
  • Under the Common Electoral Roll, only one voter list will be used for Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and other elections.
  • Types of Electoral Rolls in India Currently:
    • Some state laws allow the SEC (State Election Commission) to borrow and use the Election Commission of India’s voter’s rolls for the local body elections.
    • In others, the state commission uses the EC’s voters list as the basis for the preparation and revision of rolls for municipality and panchayat elections.
    • Few states have their own electoral rolls and do not adopt EC’s roll for local body polls like those of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Two Constitutional Authorities:
Different Electoral rolls stems from the fact that the supervision and conduct of elections in our country are entrusted with two constitutional authorities – the Election Commission (EC) of India and the State Election Commissions (SECs).
  • Election Commission (EC) of India:
    • It was set up in 1950.
    • EC is charged with the responsibility of conducting polls to:
      • the offices of the President and Vice-President of India,
      • to Parliament, the state assemblies and the legislative councils.
  • State Election Commissions (SECs):
    • The SECs, on the other hand, supervise municipal and panchayat elections. They are free to prepare their own electoral rolls for local body elections, and this exercise does not have to be coordinated with the EC.
Benefits of Common Electoral Roll:
  • A common electoral roll and simultaneous elections as a way to save an enormous amount of effort and expenditure.
  • It is argued that the preparation of a separate voters list causes duplication of the effort and the expenditure.
Earlier Recommendations:
  • The Law Commission recommended it in its 255th report in 2015 for a single electoral roll.
  • The EC too adopted a similar stance in 1999 and 2004.
  • The EC pointed out that it adds to the confusion among voters, since they may find their names present in one roll, but absent in another.
Implementation Process:
  • A Constitutional Amendment to Articles 243K and 243ZA is required.
  • Articles 243K and 243ZA deal with elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states. These give the power of superintendence, direction and control of preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of these elections to the State Election Commission (SEC).
  • The amendment would make it mandatory to have a single electoral roll for all elections in the country.
  • Persuading the state governments to tweak their respective laws and adopt the Election Commission’s (EC) voters list for municipal and panchayat polls.
  • The boundaries of the EC’s polling station may not necessarily match that of the wards.
  • The change would require a massive consensus-building exercise.
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