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.
To 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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