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Thinking about Elections

Avoid Provisional Ballots?
By Juliet Zavon
Posted: 2022-11-24T05:00:00Z

AVOID PROVISIONAL BALLOTS? No, provisional ballots are a fine way to vote. Since people have asked questions and been unsure about them, I thought I’d explain. 

Provisional ballots actually protect voter rights. Federal law mandates that all states make provisional ballots available (Help America Vote Act, 2002) to ensure that a voter can cast a provisional ballot even if there’s a question about their eligibility. However, that provisional ballot isn’t counted until the eligibility question is resolved. Every person has a right to vote a provisional ballot. No one is turned away.

Common reasons a voter casts a provisional ballot include:

+ Voter’s name is not in the poll book.

+ Voter requested an absentee ballot but claims they didn’t receive it or didn’t cast it.

+ Voter does not have identification required by their state.

Local election officials investigate each provisional ballot to determine whether it should be counted or rejected. For instance, for the voter who requested an absentee/mail-in ballot, officials check to see if an absentee/mail-in ballot was received from that voter. If none was received, the voter’s provisional ballot is counted. This is one of the (many) controls in place to ensure election integrity. In the case of the voter who requested an absentee/mail-in ballot, it makes sure no one votes twice. 

The most common reason for rejecting a provisional ballot is the voter was not registered to vote.

While federal law requires states to have provisional ballots available, state laws determine how they are used. Check out your state’s practices and more details about provisional ballots at the link