Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections In 1997, the number of electors as proposers and seconders for contesting election to the office of the President was increased from 10 to 50 and to the office of the Vice President from 5 to 20. Further, the amount of security deposit was increased from t 2,500 to xl 5,000 for contesting election to both the offices of President and Vice-President to discourage frivolous candidates.
Requisitioning of Staff for Election Duty In 1998, a provision was made whereby the employees of local authorities, nationalised banks, universities, LIC, government undertakings and other government-aided institutions can be requisitioned for deployment on election duty.
Voting through Postal Ballot In 1999, a provision was made for voting by certain classes of persons through postal ballot. Thus, any class of persons can be notified by the Election Commission, in consultation with the government, and the persons belonging to such notified class can give their votes by postal ballot, and not in any other manner, at elections in their constituency or constituencies.
Facility to Opt to Vote Through Proxy In 2003, the facility to opt to vote through proxy was provided to the service voters belonging to the Armed Forces and members belonging to a Force to which provisions of the Army Act apply. Such service voters who opt to vote through proxy have to appoint a proxy in a prescribed format and intimate the Returning Officer of the constituency.
Declaration of Criminal Antecedents, Assets, etc., by Candidates In 2003, the election Commission issued an order directing every candidate seeking election to the Parliament or a State Legislature to furnish on his nomination paper the information on the following matters.
(i) Whether the candidate has been convicted or acquitted or discharged in
any criminal offence in the past? Whether he/she was imprisoned or fined?
(ii) Prior to six months of filing nomination, whether the candidate is accused in any pending case, of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charges were framed or cognizance was taken by a court; if so, the details thereof
(iii) The assets (immovable, movable, bank balances, etc.) of a candidate and his/her spouse and that of dependents
(iv) Liabilities, if any, particularly whether there are any dues of any public financial institution or government dues
(v) The educational qualifications of the candidate
Furnishing of any false information in the affidavit is now an electoral offence punishable with imprisonment upto six months or fine or both.
Changes in Rajya Sabha Elections: In 2003, the following two changes were introduced with respect to elections to the Rajya Sabha:
(i) Domicile or residency requirement of a candidate contesting an election to the Rajya Sabha was removed. Prior to this, a candidate had to be an elector in the state from where he was to be elected. Now, it would be sufficient if he is an elector in any parliamentary constituency in the country.
(ii) Introducing open ballot system, instead of secret ballot system, for elections to the Rajya Sabha. This was done to curb cross-voting and to wipe out the role of money power during Rajya Sabha elections. Under the new system, an elector belonging to a political party has to show the ballot paper after marking his vote to a nominated agent of that political party.
Exemption of Travelling Expenditure As per a provision of 2003, the traveling expenditure incurred by the campaigning leaders of a political party shall be exempted from being included in the election expenses of the candidate.
Free Supply of Electoral Rolls, etc. According to a 2003 provision, the Government should supply, free of cost, the copies of the electoral rolls and other prescribed material to the candidates of recognised political parties for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Further, the Election Commission should supply specified items to the voters in the constituencies concerned or to the candidates set up by the recognised political parties.
Parties Entitled to Accept Contribution In 2003, the political parties were entitled to accept any amount of contribution from any person or company other than a government company. They have to report any contribution in excess of T20,000 to the Election Commission for making any claim to any income tax relief. Besides, the companies would get income tax exemption on the amount contributed.
Allocation of Time on Electronic Media Under a 2003 provision, the Election Commission should allocate equitable sharing of time on the cable television network and other electronic media during elections to display or propagate any matter or to address public. This allocation would be decided on the basis of the past performance of a recognised political party.
Introduction of Braille Signage Features in EVMs The Commission received representations from the various associations of visually impaired persons for introduction of Braille signage features in the EVMs to facilitate the visually impaired voters to cast their votes without the help of attendant. The Commission considered the proposal in detail and tried the Braille signage feature in the EVMs during the bye-election to the Asifnagar Assembly Constituency of Andhra Pradesh held in 2004. In 2005, it was tried in one of the constituency during the Assembly elections of Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana. In 2006, it was tried in one of the constituency of the States of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala during Assembly elections. In 2008, it was tried in all the assembly constituencies of NCT of Delhi during Assembly elections.
The Commission introduced similar Braille signage features on the Electronic Voting Machines during the General Elections to the Fifteenth Lok Sabha (2009) and simultaneous Assembly elections in some States.