Provisional Ballots

The “Maybe” Votes

For a variety of reasons, including clerical errors and erroneous list maintenance procedures, eligible, registered voters may arrive at the polls and discover that their names are not on the official voter rolls.

Provisional BallotsTo counter this risk, Congress included a “fail-safe” provisional voting requirement in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). Election officials are required to provide provisional ballots to individuals who are not listed on the official list of registered voters. These ballots are only counted once election officials determine that the individual is indeed eligible to vote.

But provisional voting has been widely overused, and has proven unreliable. Some poll workers have failed to offer provisional ballots to voters at all. In other cases, states have applied such varying methodologies for counting provisional ballots that tens of thousands of ballots have not been counted at all.

States have a responsibility to adopt best practices that decrease reliance on provisional ballots, and increase the likelihood that such ballots will be counted.

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New Brief Discusses Improvements for Counting Provisional Ballots

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Although the Help America Vote Act of 2002 provided “fail-safe” provisional voting to prevent the unnecessary disenfranchisement of eligible citizens who show up at the polls to find that they are not on the rolls, there are still thousands of voters whose ballots are not being counted. Read more

Dangerous Election Bills Introduced in Virginia

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The Virginia General Assembly is busily grinding out bills that will make it considerably more difficult for Virginians to cast ballots that count. In recent years, voter ID laws have cropped up in states across the country, aimed to stymie a source of fraud that simply does not exist, and Virginia is no different. Under current law, if a voter does not or cannot produce appropriate identification at the polls, the voter can simply sign a sworn document attesting his or her identity, then cast a regular ballot. Proposed legislation in both the House of Delegates and the Senate aims to take this option away from Virginia voters and place still more stringent restrictions on the kinds of ID that are accepted. Read more

New Memos Assess Election Laws in 11 States

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In preparation for the 2010 legislative season, Project Vote’s Election Administration (EA) Program is releasing a series of election administration... Read more

Model Bill: Provisional Voting

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This document provides a template for lawmakers and other interested parties to draft bills in support of provisional voting legislation. Read more

Legislative Brief: Ensuring that Provisional Ballots are Counted

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This legislative brief outlines the reasons why thousands of provisional ballots have not been counted since the passage of Help America Vote Act, and why the use of provisional ballots should be limited. It also provides policy recommendations which, if implemented by all states, would increase the likelihood that a voter’s provisional ballot would count. Read more

Arizona City Tries New “Voting Center” Model for City Elections

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Here's an interesting way one Arizona city is dealing with early voting and provisional ballot problems, at least in their city elections. The city council of Phoenix has approved an election plan that would essentially eliminate the need to designate polling places during local elections. The plan is currently being reviewed by the Department of Justice and is expected to go into effect with the next mayoral election in 2011. Read more

Election Watchdogs Gird for Problems Tuesday

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Although state election officials say they’ve got it covered, election watchdogs are warning that a potentially volatile concoction of new voters, wayward poll workers, fickle voting equipment and Mother Nature could boil over Tuesday and threaten the integrity of the results across the country. Read more