According to a report from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, county boards of elections in his state verified and counted over 84 percent of the provisional ballots cast in the November 2015 general election. This figure brings the average percentage of provisional ballots counted in Ohio’s 10 election cycles since 2011 to more than 86 percent, a 3.5 percentage-point increase from the previous eight cycles. In addition, fewer provisional ballots have been issued since 2011 compared with the prior elections.
Provisional ballots are furnished at polling places on Election Day to individuals whose eligibility to vote is in question. In Ohio, this includes when a person is not on a voter registration list, has had a recent address change, or does not have the state-required identification. The county boards verify these voters’ eligibility after the election and, when it is confirmed, count their ballots.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission tracks these data for all states that are required by federal law to use provisional ballots. (Idaho, Minnesota, and New Hampshire offer Election Day registration, and North Dakota does not require registration, so these states do not have to provide provisional ballots.) In the 2014 general election—the most recent for which national data are available—approximately 20 percent of provisional ballots were rejected nationwide.
Keara Castaldo is a research associate and Sean Greene is the project director for election initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.