10/28/2008 - Provisional ballots, one of the fixes the government implemented following the disputed 2000 election, are often proving to be a poor substitute for the real thing.
A 2002 law, the Help America Vote Act, requires states to issue provisional ballots to voters whose eligibility is uncertain when they arrive at the polling station. But in an election system that gives state and county officials wide discretion in managing elections, voters get varying treatment depending on where they live.
Still, there is little data to explain why states vary so widely in the number and treatment of provisional ballots. Instructions to poll workers may explain part of the divergence. In some places, "a provisional ballot becomes a catch-all escape hatch for poll workers who are dealing with a thorny issue," says Doug Chapin, election expert at the Pew Center on the States.
Read the full article Provisional Ballots Get Uneven Treatment on the Wall Street Journal Web site.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, please visit electionline.org.