Explained: USA postal ballot controversy; lessons for India polls amid Covid?

With general elections looming closer in the United States of America, it is none other than the serving President, Donald Trump, who has warned of possible large-scale fraud in the exercise. He has questioned the decades-old practice of postal ballot, claiming that it is susceptible to cheating, not just by political parties but even foreign powers, which can end up subverting the elections. However, his allegations have been countered by the Opposition Democratic party, which sees postal ballots as an important tool in preventing crowding, and possibly large-scale Covid infection, during the act of voting. It has argued that mail-in voting can actually prevent the disenfranchisement of many sections of society which might feel nervous in going out and waiting hours in a crowded place to cast a vote, especially since the US remains by far the worst-hit nation by the Covid pandemic. The country has recorded over 50 lakh cases and 1.62 lakh deaths so far. So what are postal ballots and why are they the source of such a big controversy? With predictions of unprecedented levels of mail-in voting by Americans in the November election, the country's experience may also hold a lesson or two for India. Although the Election Commission of India has decided to not widen the scope of postal ballots for the Bihar Assembly elections, the Covid situation remains fluid and other state elections are looming closer.