What to Watch for in Election 2014: Provisional Ballots Are Key in Close Races

Provisional ballots are issued for a variety of reasons, such as when a voter does not appear on the rolls or does not bring the required identification or in cases of poll-worker error.  In the 2010 election, nearly 1.1 million provisional ballots were cast across the country, and about two-thirds of those were counted.

In states with close elections, provisional ballots may play a pivotal role.

Even in states with less competitive races, provisional ballots can still be a factor.

  • Reports indicate that some Arkansas voters are being issued provisional ballots as the result of confusion about whether they need to show photo ID at the polls.
  • poll worker in Tuckerton, New Jersey, who was supposed to bring keys to the voting machines and the list of registered voters, was late arriving, which led to provisional ballots being issued to voters who showed up when the polls opened.

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