Nevada County, CA, released a report analyzing its elections over the past decade. The study found that although the number of registered voters and ballots cast remained steady, the number of provisional ballots issued increased significantly.
In 2004, the county issued 998 provisional ballots, about 1.8 percent of total ballots cast. With similar voter turnout in 2012, 1,955 provisional ballots — 3.7 percent of all ballots cast — were issued, an increase of 96 percent.
The report notes that provisional ballots are undoubtedly an important failsafe, but they require time and money to verify and their use could be reduced:
"While provisional voting is a great backup method, many provisional ballots could be avoided if voters either re-registered when required, or if voters simply identified the correct polling place," The report said. "Many voters do not realize that every time they move they must register to vote again so they can be placed in the proper precinct and receive the correct ballot."
To address similar challenges of keeping voter registration records up to date, seven states — Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Washington — are participating in the Electronic Registration Information Center, a tool that allows officials to better identify and contact voters who have moved between elections.