Report Tallies Votes Lost Due to Provisional Ballot Laws

A recent report by the Fair Elections Legal Network classifies states into three categories based on their laws for counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong jurisdiction, polling place, or precinct. The report focuses on votes that are cast by registered voters at a location other than the one where they are assigned and are subsequently rejected:

  • Full rejection. In 22 states provisional ballots are fully rejected if they are cast in the wrong county, precinct, or polling place. In the 2012 election, these states rejected 45,376 such ballots.
  • Partial counting. In 17 states, certain conditions, which the network divided into three subcategories, must be met for provisional ballots cast at the wrong location to be counted:
    • Correct polling place. In two states, New York and Missouri, if the voter was at the correct polling place but cast the wrong ballot, provisional ballots are partially counted. That is, they are counted for all races the voter was eligible to vote in, but rejected for any others. These states have multiple precincts sharing a polling place, and each precinct has its own registration roll. Voters must locate the correct precinct within the polling place in order to cast their correct ballot. If, however, a voter is at the wrong polling place, the ballot is fully rejected.
    • Correct jurisdiction. In seven states, provisional ballots are counted for some races as long as they were cast in the correct jurisdiction (usually the county) regardless of polling place.
    • Statewide. Eight states will count provisional votes for all races that the voter was eligible for, regardless in which jurisdiction or polling place the ballot was cast.
  • Not applicable. The 12 states that offer Election Day registration or do not require voter registration do not have to issue provisional ballots, but some choose to do so as an additional fail-safe.

A state’s laws regarding the counting of provisional ballots can be pivotal in close races.

Follow us on Twitter using #electiondata and get the latest data dispatches, research, and news by subscribing today. 

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.