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Dhaka Tribune

Factbox: How to cast votes through postal ballot?

  • Applicable to  four types of voters
  • Article 27 of RPO mentions postal ballot
Update : 04 Jan 2024, 11:42 AM

The term postal ballot might be unfamiliar to many citizens in Bangladesh, but certain groups of registered voters can exercise their franchise through the postal service in the general election across the country.

Postal balloting is a unique system where individuals can cast their votes through the postal service. This allows various groups, including the head of state, to participate in the electoral process.

The issue came to discussion on Wednesday after President Mohammed Shahabuddin and his wife Dr Rebeka Sultana exercised their franchise through postal ballot for the January 7 general election.

This article delves into the concept of postal ballots and explores how citizens can exercise their voting rights through this method.

What is postal ballot?

Postal ballot, as defined by Article 27 of the Representation of the People Order (RPO) in Bangladesh, is a balloting system that enables eligible voters to cast their votes via the post. 

This provision is particularly relevant for specific groups of voters, such as those who are imprisoned, in legal custody, Bangladeshi expatriates, and polling officers, who may face challenges attending polling centers in person.

This provision has been introduced since the ninth national parliamentary election.

How to use postal ballot?

Voters need to submit an application to the returning officer of their constituency, including their name, postal address, and serial number in the voter list.

Upon receiving the applications, returning officers send a postal ballot paper and an envelope to the voter.

Voters mark their choice on the ballot paper and return it in the provided envelope.

The returned envelope must include a certificate of posting issued by a post office official with a circular via post and rubber stamp seal.

Postal ballots are usually distributed and placed in return mail before the scheduled Election Day.

The returning officer counts the postal votes received within the specified timeframe. Votes received after polls close will not be considered.

EC campaign

Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) has campaigned to encourage voting through postal ballot in this year's parliamentary elections.

In an inter-ministerial meeting held recently, the EC directed all concerned, including the Bangladesh mission abroad, to encourage casting vote through the postal ballots.

This initiative, exemplified by the president’s postal vote, aims to popularize the option, ensuring a broad and inclusive electoral process.

Postal voting in US elections

Postal voting played an important role in the 2020 United States elections, with many voters reluctant to vote in person during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A record number of voters, in excess of 65.6 million, cast postal votes in the US elections. 

The postal service handled approximately 135 million pieces of election-related mail between September 1 and November 3 of 2020, delivering the vast majority of these materials on time.

During the 2016 US Presidential election, around 33 million ballots -  about 25% of the total - were cast via mailed out ballots, a variation of postal voting.

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