If you were given a Provisional Ballot at the last election, you vote was counted, right?

NO! Unless you took action to challenge the provisional ballot by providing verification or other information YOUR VOTE WAS NOT COUNTED!

A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there are questions about a given voter’s eligibility. A provisional ballot would be cast when:

  • The voter refuses to show a photo ID (in regions that require one)
  • The voter’s name does not appear on the electoral roll for the given precinct.
  • The voter’s registration contains inaccurate or out-dated information such as the wrong address or a misspelled name.
  • The voter’s ballot has already been recorded

Whether a provisional ballot is counted is contingent upon the verification of that voter’s eligibility.

A guarantee that a voter could cast a provisional ballot if he or she believes that they are entitled to vote was one of the guarantees of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

At their best, provisional ballots provide voters who would otherwise be turned away from the polls to have their votes counted, but at their worst, the offer of a provisional ballot can be “a way to brush off troublesome voters by letting them think they have voted.”  It is possible for parties to force certain voters to cast provisional ballots so they can suppress the vote total of an opponent being counted on election night.

In the 2004 US Presidential Election, controversy arose out of arguments regarding the interpretation of the criteria for determining the eligibility of voters using provisional ballots. Many allege that these discrepancies of interpretations, particularly in Ohio, may have been a deciding factor in the outcome of the election. In the 2004 election, at least 1.9 million provisional ballots were cast, and 676,000 were never counted due to various states’ rules on counting provisional ballots. For the unknowing voter, their provisional ballot was no more than a pacifier.

Studies of the use of provisional ballots in the 2006 general election in the United States show that around 21% of provisional ballots were rejected, where the majority of rejected ballots were cast by registered voters and the majority of rejections were for reasons that were preventable.


Sometimes states require voters to take additional steps to verify their eligibility in order for the provisional ballot to count such as submitting an acceptable form of identification at a board of elections office within a specified time period after Election Day.  (Source 866ourvote.org)

If you were given a provisional ballot at the last election and you did not go to the office of your supervisor of elections to reinstate your voter registration, you need to do that before the next election. If you are rejected, find out how to challenge that rejection. If you are not successful, consider contacting the ACLU to act on your behalf.

The most common reason for rejection of provisional ballots is due to voters who have been purged off the voting rolls.  44 percent of those provisional ballots rejected in 2006 possibly were due to this factor. One method used and misused is the practice of voter caging.

Voter caging refers to challenging the registration status of voters and calling into question the legality of allowing them to vote. Sometimes, it involves sending direct mail to the addresses of registered voters and compiling a list of addressees from which the mail is returned undelivered. The list is then used to purge or challenge voters’ registrations on the grounds that the voters do not legally reside at the registered addresses. If the registered voter has moved but failed to update their voter registration and their mail is not forwarded to the new address, they may find their name has been removed from the voter rolls.

The practice is legal in many states. However, it has been challenged in the courts for perceived racial bias, and it has been declared illegal under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The term has also been applied to recent cases of increased requirements for proof of identity (Voter ID laws), residency, and eligibility being added with the implied intent to limit the number of eligible voters, especially those likely to vote for Democrats.

In 2005, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who as chair of his state’s Republican Party championed an illegal voter suppression technique called “caging” — launched a program called Interstate Crosscheck to compare voter registration data across states and ferret out evidence of double voting. The program has since expanded to 30 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), but it’s been controversial from the start. For one thing, it’s resulted in very few actual cases of fraud being referred for prosecution, as alleged cases of double voting in multiple states turned out to be clerical and other errors. One tally found that while the program has flagged 7.2 million possible double registrants, no more than four have actually been charged with deliberate double registration or double voting. Meanwhile, some states including Florida dropped out of the program due to doubts about the reliability of its data — though others, including the swing state of North Carolina, joined despite those issues.

Sources: Wikipedia and The Voting News