Fair Provisional Ballot and Voter ID Laws
The lack of fair and consistent federal requirements regarding provisional ballots and voter ID laws leads to confusion, inequity, and lost votes.

ID Requirements:
In recent election cycles, inconsistent policies regarding ID requirements were the focus of many legal battles and the root cause of many electoral disputes. Some states require a government issued picture ID; some states allow a non-photo ID; and other states require no ID at all. As a result, election officials have wrongly interpreted state election law and have asked voters for IDs when none were required, and denied those who could not furnish an ID the right to vote.  In other instances, voters were turned away for not producing the correct form of ID.

Although there has been little evidence of voter impersonation fraud at the polls, states have continued to pass restrictive and often burdensome voter ID requirements that may prevent otherwise eligible voters from participating. The debate over increasing access versus preventing fraud speaks to a lager discussion of needing to modernize the U.S. voter registration system. Most other democracies around the world require an ID to vote, but that is only because they have systems of automatic and permanent voter registration, where the government takes on the responsibility of ensuring full and accurate voter rolls. These countries also provide their citizens government ID cards, free of charge. Voter ID laws may increase the perception of more secure elections, but voters should always be able to substitute a signature for a valid ID. Furthermore, voter ID laws should only be considered in tandem with steps to register all eligible voters and supply them with free government-issued identification cards.

Provisional Ballots:
The patchwork way that states count provisional ballots challenges the principle of all votes being equal. While some states decided to count provisional ballots cast in the wrong voting precinct, others demand that all votes be cast in the correct precinct. To add to the confusion, in a few instances different counties within the same state even have different requirements for provisional ballot counting procedures.
The universal usage of the provisional ballot will enable more voters to cast a ballot that will be counted, but it is essential that policies concerning how the ballots will be counted are uniform as well.  States and the federal government should pass clear guidelines stating how provisional ballots are counted. This will eliminate confusion and the guarantee the integrity of the voting process.

Policy Recommendations:
  • Set uniform national standards for ID requirements.  Such policies should not be restrictive or make it more difficult for a voter to cast a ballot.
  • Set uniform standards for provisional ballots. Voters who vote in the wrong precinct should be able to cast a provisional ballot from that precinct for all federal and statewide offices and issues.
  • If using an optical scan machine, provisional ballots should be of a different size than the regular ballots to ensure that poll workers do not confuse the two. This will help prevent provisional ballots being counted twice or being counted as regular ballots.