Politics2020 Election


Vote Smarter 2020: What Is A Provisional Ballot?

Newsy's Vote Smarter 2020 aims to provide you with all the information you'll need to safely and successfully cast your ballot this year.
Posted at 3:48 PM, Oct 16, 2020

What is a provisional ballot?

"So a provisional ballot is a ballot for anyone who doesn't appear qualified at the moment. And then they are qualified or not after the election. And if they are qualified, then their vote is counted," said Lonna Atkeson, the director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy at the University of New Mexico.

A variety of issues could prompt a voter to be handed a provisional ballot. Maybe they forgot their ID in a state where it is required, or their name isn't on the registration rolls. 

"And you can ask, 'What do I need to do to get a regular ballot, to get my ballot counted now?' And that's a conversation you could have on Election Day with the election officials," said Bob Brandon, the president of the Fair Elections Center.

Provisional ballots could also be used if a voter requested a mail-in ballot but decided to vote in person instead. In New Jersey, all registered voters will be sent a mail-in ballot, and anyone who chooses to vote in person will vote by using a provisional one. 

"We don't want voters walking away without without having an opportunity to cast their ballot. A provisional ballot will be kept aside. It'll be put into an envelope. And after election day, after the rush of voting at the polls, they will take some steps to verify eligibility," said Matthew Weil, the director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.