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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Enhancement of participation by special categories of voters

The Technical Session III, which was about the enhancement of participation by special category of voters like defence personnel, diplomatic mission personnel, polling personnel and overseas citizens, witnessed the saw presentations from Australia, Iraq, Lesotho, Mexico, USA, India and IFES.

Through the presentations, we learnt that special facilities for citizens overseas and defence personnel were provided by most countries. In addition, Iraq and Australia also allowed patients and staff in the hospital and inmates and employees in prison to exercise their right to vote through a special provision. Interestingly, the US also received its first vote from a citizen in space. However, a number of challenges like the lack of information and awareness among these special citizens, registration and receiving their votes through post or online was another issue.

Privacy of vote, the most important right of the voter, was also bound to be compromised in internet voting. Mexico also used famous Mexicans abroad to spread awareness. Funding was another major issue, as pointed out by Lesotho, which has no such facilities due to monetary constraints. India while giving its presentation about the initiatives take to reach out to its overseas electors, concluded the presentation with the launch of an online Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey cum competition mainly aimed at non-resident Indians who retain their Indian citizenship and can thus vote in Indian elections.

IFES has been working in many countries and gave a glimpse of various initiatives being taken in these countries to reach out to the special categories of voters. As IFES stated, the right to vote is a fundamental human rights and should be extended to all, including the refugees.