Provisional BallotsAlthough the question of how provisional ballots should be counted was a hot topic and the subject of many lawsuits leading up to the 2004 presidential election, many states have been using provisional ballots for years with little controversy. Today, as one of the provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), all states are required to have provisional ballots available for voters to use.
A provisional ballot is a ballot a voter casts on Election Day when that voter's name does not appear on the voter rolls. These ballots are for all intents and purposes the same as regular ballots, except they are not automatically counted on Election Day. Instead, they are kept separate from the other ballots until election officials can determine that the voter who cast the provisional ballot is actually eligible to vote.
In recent years, legal battles have erupted about how provisional ballots should be counted. While some states count provisional ballots cast in the wrong voting precinct, others demand that all votes be cast in the correct precinct to count. In some instances, counties in the same state set different requirements for provisional ballots. The universal usage of provisional ballots will enable more voters to cast a ballot, but it is essential that policies concerning the counting of ballots are uniform.