Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar on Wednesday said that citizens from other parts of the country, who are either studying or doing business in the Union Territory, can register as voters and exercise their franchise in the next elections in the erstwhile state, likely to be held next year, reported Press Trust of India (PTI).
The CEO also said that around 25 lakh new voters are expected to be enrolled in J-K as the special summary revision of electoral rolls is being held for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
He also described the ongoing exercise to complete the special summary revision of electoral rolls by 25 November as a ”challenging task”.
The massive exercise to complete the process in time is going on to ensure that all the eligible voters including those who have attained the age of 18 years on 1 October 2022, or earlier are enrolled to provide an ”error-free” final list, Kumar said, as per the report.
According to the rescheduled timeline issued by the election commission recently, an integrated draft electoral roll will be published on 15 September while the period for filing claims and objections was set between 15 September to 25 October followed by disposal of claims and objections on 10 November.
Checking of health parameters and obtaining the commission’s permission for final publication and updating the database and printing of supplements were fixed for 19 November before the publication of final electoral rolls on 25 November.
”The special summary revision of electoral rolls is taking place for the first time after January 1, 2019, and so we are expecting massive changes in the voter list given the fact that a large number of youngsters have attained the age of 18 or 18 plus over the past three years,” he said.
”After the abrogation of Article 370, many people who were not enlisted as voters in the erstwhile state of J&K are now eligible to vote and in addition, anyone who is living ordinarily can also avail the opportunity to get enlisted as a voter in J&K by the provisions of representation of the Peoples Act,” Kumar told reporters here.
He said the projected population of J&K who are 18 plus are around 98 lakhs, while the number of enlisted voters is 76 lakh according to the last voter list.
”We are expecting an addition of 20 to 25 lakh new voters in the final list,” Kumar said, adding the Booth Level Officers, Electoral Registration Officers, Assistant Electoral Registration officers, and District Election Officers have been sensitized to ensure that the final list will be ”error-free” and will also cover all the eligible voters.
Kumar said there is no need for a person to have a domicile certificate of J&K to become a voter. ”An employee, a student, a laborer, or anyone from outside who is living ordinarily in J&K, can enlist his or her name in the voting list. The documents will be scrutinized by the government officials concerned who will decide between being satisfied with the claim.” He said like in the past, many residents of J&K who are working in armed forces and paramilitary forces and are posted outside the Union Territory have an option to get themselves registered as service voters and can avail of the facility of a postal ballot to register their choice at the time of the elections.
”Likewise, those from different parts of the country who are posted here have the option that if they are posted in a peace station they can enlist themselves as voters. Jammu is a peace station and anyone from outside posted in armed forces in the city can avail the option to enlist as a voter,” he said.
He said after the delimitation commission submitted its report on May 5 and the union law ministry implemented the report on May 20, the number of assembly seats in J&K increased to 90.
”All the 90 constituencies have witnessed some sort of change… We are presently undertaking to map of old constituencies with new constituencies and it will be followed by the special summary revision (SSR),” Kumar said, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing pre-SSR activities.
He said 600 polling stations have been added and now the total number of polling stations across Jammu and Kashmir has gone up to 11,370.
Kumar said the commission is planning to undertake door-to-door campaigning and also organize special camps in educational institutions for the awareness of the eligible voters.
The chief electoral officer said provision has been made in the modified registration forms for linking Aadhaar numbers with electoral roll data, the objective of which is to establish the identity of electors and authentication of entries in the electoral roll.
He said the commission will issue new voter Identity cards which will have new security features.
About Kashmiri migrants residing outside the valley, he said there is already a special provision for the such displaced population to enable them to exercise their franchise.
”They (Kashmiri Pandit migrants) are registered as voters in their home constituencies. Special camps are being organized for them at different places including Delhi, Jammu, and Udhampur for registration of new voters and all of them will be given the voter ID cards,” he said.
He dismissed the notion that Rohingya Muslims, who have taken shelter in Jammu and other parts, can get themselves registered as voters. ”We have officers in place and they know their duty”.
On the holding of assembly elections, he said the Election Commission of India is the authority that can decide on the timing of the polls.