Can NRIs vote in Indian elections

9 April, 2019

Sydney, Australia

Can NRIs (Non-resident Indian’s) vote in Indian elections?

It’s answer is YES, but it’s complex and not easy.

If you have obtained a passport of any foreign country, you are not permitted to vote in India. Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holding foreign citizens are not permitted to vote in Indian elections either. OCI is not equivalent to Indian passport.

Photo of an Indian Passport

If you have an Indian passport, and haven’t acquired any overseas passport, you can vote, but only in the polling booth of your constituency in India. You will need to travel to India and then vote on the day of election. Online or proxy voting is not allowed for NRIs at present. Pre-poll and postal voting are also not allowed for NRIs.

Every voter in India must be registered for electoral rolls (voters’ list). This can be done online by filling form 6a (and by providing necessary documents) or submitting necessary documents in the election office in your constituency in India. NRIs can thus be registered as overseas voters. This can be then used for voting in a polling station in your registered constituency in India on the day of election.

You may or may not know that ECI was not in favour of online voting for NRIs, but was in favour of proxy voting for NRIs. Indian Government moved a bill in the Lower House of the Parliament to allow proxy voting for NRIs, which would have allowed them to authorize their relatives to vote on their behalf. The bill was passed in the Lower House of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha), but it wasn’t passed in the Upper House of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and will lapse soon since the Lok Sabha is going to be dissolved in May 2019. Hopefully, it may be re-introduced later and passed in future. NRIs will need to lobby again, not just for proxy voting, but also for online voting.

There are a few scams floating around, with links outlining that NRIs can vote online. They use Election Commission of India (ECI) logo too, but they are all illegal and fake sites, and being used for phishing to steal people’s identities. ECI has recently lodged a police complaint to track down the culprits and punish them.


Dr Yadu Singh