Who is a service voter?
A service voter is a:
- Member of the Armed Forces – Army, Navy and Air Force.
- Member of Assam Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Seema Sashastra Bal, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, General Engineering Reserve Force, and Border Roads Organisation under Border Roads Development Board.
- Member of the armed police force of a state serving outside the state.
- People employed by the Government of India in a post outside India, like those working for Embassies and High Commissions outside India.
- Wife of a male service voter residing with them.
A person will not be considered a service voter once they leave or retire from any of the above services.
How can a service voter register to vote?
A person can register as a service voter in the electoral roll of their home constituency, i.e. where their permanent residence is located. They should:
- Fill two copies of the relevant application form depending on the category of service (Armed Forces, Armed Police, or Diplomats/Officials working in Embassies and Missions).
- Submit the application to the Record Office or Nodal Officer of the place/constituency they are applying from, along with the required documents.
What is the process of voting as a service voter?
If a person is registered as a service voter in their home constituency, i.e. constituency where their permanent residence is, and are posted elsewhere when the elections are announced, the Returning Officer of their home constituency will send them the following to cast their vote:
- A postal ballot paper with the electoral roll number and the initials ‘PB’ written on the backside of the form by the Returning Officer.
- Form 13A i.e., a declaration that the service voter has cast the vote.
- Form 13B i.e., a cover for placing the marked ballot paper.
- Form 13C i.e., a cover with the filled Form 13A and Form 13B addressed to the Returning Officer.
- Form 13D i.e., a copy of the instructions explaining how to cast the vote, along with the time and date by when the service voter should send back the ballots.
To reduce the time of sending ballot papers, the Election Commission of India has set up an Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots (ETPB) through which the Returning Officer can send the ballot papers electronically, and service voters can download the same using a unique PIN.
Once a service voter has received their ballot papers, they can follow the steps below to cast their vote:
Put a tick mark (✓) or cross mark (x) next to the name of the preferred candidate. A service voter must not write or mark anything on the ballot paper that would reveal their identity.
- Fill Form 13A. Attest it by a notary/stipendiary magistrate, or the commanding officer of the unit, ship or establishment (for members of the armed forces).
- Government officials serving abroad must get it attested by the diplomatic or consular representative of India at the country where they are posted.
Note down the serial number of the ballot paper on the Form 13B cover, place the marked ballot paper inside it, and seal it according to the instructions.
- Put the filled and sealed Forms 13A and 13B in the envelope provided (Form 13C), addressed to the Returning Officer. The service voter does not need to affix any postal stamps on the envelope.
- A government official casting their postal ballot can send it either by airmail or as a diplomatic package.
- Post it within the time and date mentioned. Otherwise, the vote will not be counted.
What is proxy voting for service voters?
Service voters can vote through a proxy at their home constituency if they belong to the:
- Armed Forces.
- Assam Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Seema Sashastra Bal, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, General Engineering Reserve Force, and Border Roads Organisation under Border Roads Development Board.
A service voter who chooses this option to vote will be recognised as a ‘Classified Service Voter’ (CSV).
A service voter can appoint a person living in their home constituency as their proxy if the person is:
- A citizen of India;
- Above eighteen years of age; and
- Not banned from registering as a voter on the electoral roll of that constituency.
To appoint a proxy, the service voter must fill and sign Form 13F before their commanding officer, and send it to the person they are appointing as proxy. The proxy must then sign the form in front of a notary or a First Class Magistrate, and submit it to the Returning Officer at the home constituency. If both the service voter and the proxy are at the home constituency, they can sign Form 13F together before a notary or a First Class Magistrate.
A service voter’s proxy will cast a vote on their behalf at the polling station, following the standard procedure for general voters. This vote is in addition to the one they may cast in their own name. For proxy votes, the election authorities will mark indelible ink on the middle finger of the left hand.
Once appointed, a person will remain the proxy till the service voter revokes their appointment, or till they die. To revoke the proxy, the service voter must fill Form 13G and send it to the Returning Officer. The proxy is revoked as soon as the Officer receives the form.