Provisional voting

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This article describes provisional voting, and issues associated with provisional voting.

According to the Help America Vote Act any citizen who comes to a polling place is entitled to receive a provisional ballot. After the election the appropriate election officials can determine if the voter is eligible. The voter is also entitled to take steps to ensure that the vote is counted.

Problems with provisional voting

Ballots not counted

Each state determines its own rules for counting provisional ballots. This results in many ballots not being counted. According to a Wall Street Journal article, "in 2004, 1.9 million provisional ballots were cast nationwide, of which 676,000 weren't counted. In the 2006 election, 20% of the 800,000 provisional ballots were discarded." Also, in the 2008 primaries "the rejection rates varied widely by state, according to data collected by the Pew Center on the States. In Illinois, only 4,447 of the 15,205 provisional ballots cast counted. In Maryland, 31,781 of the 54,038 provisional ballots were deemed valid. In Kentucky, with nearly 900,000 voters casting ballots, only 102 provisional ballots were issued and only eight counted."[1]

Delays at the polling place

Provisional voting can take time. When there is a large election turnout large numbers of provisional voters can add to delays that create long lines.

Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct

Different states have different procedures for counting or not counting provisional ballots that are cast in the wrong precinct. Some states will not count these ballots, so it is important to go to the correct polling place on election day. In a study of Ohio and Florida a majority of provisional ballots thrown out were because voters showed up at the wrong precinct, and cast provisional ballots -- and often are not told the ballots would not count unless cast in the correct precinct.[1]

Insufficient identification

Some states have very restrictive voter ID requirements, with very short time periods following the election for the provisional voter to come to election headquarters and show proper ID.

Incomplete or unsigned ballots

According to a Demos study, "In 2006, 3.2 percent of rejected ballots were invalidated for being incomplete; 2.2 percent were discarded because they lacked the voter's signature indicating poor ballot design or lax oversight by poll workers. Several states exceeded these rates."[2]

Articles and resources

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Figures and Pew reference are from article: Evan Perez, "Provisional Ballots Get Uneven Treatment ," Wall Street Journal, October 28, 2008.
  2. Scott Navakowski, "Provisional Ballots: Where to Watch in 2008," a report from Demos, October, 200

External resources

External articles