Provisional Ballots

10/15/2018

Introduction

Provisional ballots ensure that voters are not excluded from the voting process due to an administrative error. They provide a fail-safe mechanism for voters who arrive at the polls on Election Day and whose eligibility to vote is uncertain. 

provisional ballotsAlso referred to as “challenge ballots” or “affidavit ballots” in some states, they are required by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). When there is uncertainty about a voter’s eligibility—the potential voter’s name is not on the voter rolls, a required identification document isn’t available or other issues—the election official is required to offer the voter a provisional ballot instead of a regular ballot.

In nearly all of the states, after being cast, the provisional ballot is kept separate from other ballots until after the election. A determination is then made as to whether the voter was eligible to vote, and therefore whether the ballot is to be counted. Generally, a board of elections or local election officials will investigate the provisional ballots within days of the election. Since this is an additional administrative step, a large number of provisional ballots can increase costs for jurisdictions.

States vary greatly in how provisional ballots are handled and in the number that are issued and rejected, and both the processes and the data are tracked by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). States can have as few as 100 provisional ballots cast statewide, or as many as 100,000.

Often standards for handling provisional ballots are determined by state law.

This Web page provides a general overview of state provisional ballot laws and practices. The information was gathered from several sources, including the EAC’s 2014 Statutory Summary, state election manuals, state statutes and regulations, and through consultation with state election administrators.

NOTE: Idaho, Minnesota and New Hampshire do not issue provisional ballots, therefore, we do not provide information regarding those states in any of the material below. For explanation of why they do not issue provisional ballots see What states do not use provisional ballots, and why?

Because state laws vary so greatly we recommend consulting your state’s laws and regulations if you have specific questions.

This page answers the following questions: 

What Does Federal Law Require Regarding Provisional Ballots?

Provisional ballots are mandated by section 15482 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), but even before HAVA, some states offered “provisional,” “challenge” or “affidavit” ballots to ensure that no eligible voters were turned away. HAVA exempts only a few states: Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming (see below). 

The law states: “If an individual declares that such individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote and that the individual is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office, but the name of the individual does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the individual is not eligible to vote, such individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot…”

HAVA sets out what actions are required of voters and of election officials:

Voters: To use a provisional ballot, each voter whose eligibility to vote is uncertain must provide a written affirmation, signed in front of an election official at the polling place, stating that he or she is a registered voter and is eligible to vote in the election.

Election officials: Election officials and poll workers must notify potential voters that they have a right to use a provisional ballot, provide the ballot, witness the affirmation, and receive the ballot for later processing. Additionally, election officials must provide information to the voter on how the process works and how to find out if his or her ballot was cast—and if not, why not. 

Why Are Provisional Ballots Issued?

For a voter to cast a provisional ballot, there must be some question as to his or her eligibility to vote. These questions vary across states. The most common reasons, as identified by the EAC, are:

  • The voter’s name is not on the poll or registration list.
  • The voter’s eligibility cannot be otherwise established.
  • The voter’s identity and/or eligibility to vote has been challenged by a poll-worker or election official.
  • The voter does not have identification as required by that state.
  • The voter requested an absentee ballot but claims he or she either didn’t receive it or didn’t cast it.
  • The voter’s address or name has changed but their voter registration information does not reflect the change.
  • For primaries, the voter registration reflects an error in party listing.

Most states have additional reasons specific to those states. In addition, HAVA requires all states to issue provisional ballots if the polling place hours are extended by court order.

Below is a chart of the most common reasons voters may need to cast a provisional ballot and the states that will allow a voter to cast a provisional ballot in those instances. 

Common Reasons Voters May Need to Cast a Provisional Ballot
Reason States
Voter eligibility cannot be immediately established—i.e., name is not on registration list 46 states, plus D.C.: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
The voter’s eligibility is challenged by a poll watcher 27 states, plus D.C.: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming
Voter did not present ID as required by the state 36 states, plus D.C.:  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin
Voter requested an absentee ballot and has not cast it 16 states, plus D.C.: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington/td>
Registration reflects an error in party listing (primary election only) Nine states, plus D.C.: District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, West Virginia
Address and/or name has changed Nine states, plus D.C.: Alaska, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas

 

What Is the Legislative Role Regarding Provisional Ballots?

Because it takes longer to process provisional ballots than regular ballots, legislators and administrators may be motivated to reduce the use of provisional ballots. While the availability of provisional ballots is mandated by federal law—the Help America Vote Act of 2002—state laws determine how and why provisional ballots are used. They may also want to make procedures for the use of provisional ballots uniform throughout their state. Here are issues relating to provisional ballots that legislators may address:

  • Same Day Registration. In some states that offer same day registration, they may implement it by requiring the use of provisional ballots for Election Day registrants. In these cases, voters can indeed register and vote at the same time, but if they cannot immediately provide the required identification and proof of residency, their ballots are not counted until their eligibility is determined. (Other states may provide same day registration through other mechanisms). Montana uses provisional ballots for this purpose and OK S 314, from 2015, would have created same day registration through the use of provisional ballots.
  • Voter ID.  Many states who have strict voter ID requirements ask voters who do not provide the appropriate ID at the time of voting to cast a provisional ballot. Voters have the opportunity to show ID within a few days of the election, and if not, the provisional ballot is not counted.
  • Voted the Wrong Ballot. In states where several precincts may be housed in one polling place, it is not uncommon for a voter to get in the wrong line. In this case, the voter is offered the opportunity to either get in the right line for the correct ballot, or be issued a provisional ballot that would be partially counted. This is called the “right church, wrong pew” situation. In Ohio, in 2014 SB 216  was enacted to set procedures for these cases that allow a portion of the ballot to be counted.
  • Issued an Absentee Ballot. In many states, voters who have been issued an absentee ballot are not able to vote on Election Day even if they haven’t cast the absentee ballot. States can permit voters who say this is the case to vote on Election Day on a provisional ballot; that way, if the original absentee ballot does get submitted, the provisional ballot will not be counted. For instance, RI S 639, from 2015, would permit voters to vote on a provisional ballot even if they had requested an absentee ballot.
  • Name Not on the Voter List. One of the most common reasons provisional ballots are issued is that the voter’s name does not appear on the voter list, even if the voter says he or she has registered.  In 2015, TX H 2987, which failed, proposed giving each new registrant a receipt saying they had applied to register. If the name is not on the voter list, the receipt could be attached to a provisional ballot, thus proving the voter had done their part by registering.
  • Voting Outside One’s Precinct. In some states, provisional ballots can be used by voters who are voting outside their own jurisdiction. State law governs whether these ballots will be rejected, or whether the portion of the ballot the voters were eligible to vote will be counted. In 2013, Illinois and Utah passed legislation to count partial ballots. Also in 2013, North Carolina enacted HB 589, which clarified that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct will not be counted.
  • Uniform Time Frames. States can create uniform time periods for handling provisional ballots. Illinois’ HB 2418, enacted in 2013, requires election officials to transmit information about provisional ballots cast to the state board within two calendar days of the election, and increases from two to seven days the time period during which a provisional voter may submit additional information to election authorities. Also in 2013, Texas established a time frame for counting provisional ballots.
  • Uniform Procedures: States can also establish statewide procedures for counting provisional ballots.  In 2013, Virginia addressed two procedural issues. With HB 63, it established who can be present when provisional ballots are counted, and with HB 2143, the state now requires that provisional ballots be “promptly” put in the ballot box.

How Is a Provisional Ballot Investigated?

Once a provisional ballot is cast, it is stored separately from other ballots and investigated by local election officials. Generally, this process entails verifying the voter’s identity and eligibility to vote, and may require the voter to provide further information. If the identity of the voter and the voter’s eligibility can be established through reviewing the voter rolls or verifying a signature, all or a portion of the ballot will be counted (see below). If their eligibility cannot be established, the ballot will not be counted.

In some states, the voter may be asked to take action after Election Day to have his or her provisional ballot.  In these cases, the voter may be required to return to an election office following the election to verify his or her identity and/or eligibility to vote. In most cases, these voters were issued a provisional ballot because they did not present voter identification as required by that state. In Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin voters have a few days after Election Day to show required identification (see NCSL’s Voter ID Requirements page.)

Occasionally a voter may be asked to return to provide proof of residence, such as a utility bill, or other eligibility verifications depending on the reason for the issuance of the provisional ballot. These states are likely to be those that offer Election Day registration.

Is Any Part of a Provisional Ballot Counted If it Is Cast in the Wrong Precinct?

States vary in how they handle provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.  This most commonly happens when a voter goes to the wrong precinct because he or she can’t get to the home precinct, and therefore votes on a provisional ballot.  (As part of get-out-the-vote efforts toward the end of Election Day, candidates, campaigns and advocacy groups may encourage this choice.)

Some states count a portion of the provisional ballot if it is cast in the wrong precinct or jurisdiction. Generally, they will count the votes for races that the voter would have been eligible to vote in, if they did so in the correct precinct or jurisdiction. This may include just votes for federal offices, as in Rhode Island, or for state or local races that would be shared among precincts.

In other states, the entire ballot will be rejected.

Exceptions may exist. For example, in Maine, the full ballot is counted first. If the number of provisional ballots cast would change the outcome of the election, and only then is the validity of the provisional ballots investigated.

In Ohio, there may be certain polling places holding elections for more than one precinct. In that situation, if the voter is in the right polling place but the wrong precinct, they will first be directed to the correct precinct. If they chose not to get back in line they can choose to vote a provisional ballot in the wrong precinct (Ohio Code § 3505.183)

State Handling of Provisional Ballots Cast in the Wrong Precinct.
Full Count Maine**
Partial Count Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado District of Columbia, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiania*, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio***, Oregon, Rhode Island*, Utah, Washington, West Virginia
Does Not Count Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

*Only Federal races

** Validity is only reviewed if the number of provisional ballots cast is a large enough number to affect the results of the election

*** See Ohio Code § 3505.183

What Are the Reasons for Rejecting/Accepting a Provisional Ballot?

Once the provisional ballot has been investigated, the election officials will either accept the ballot and count all or part of it, or reject the ballot and not count it.

According to the EAC the most common reasons for rejection of a provisional ballot are: (1) the voter was not registered; (2) the voter cast a provisional ballot in the wrong jurisdiction; (3) the vote was cast in the wrong precinct; (4) the voter lacked required ID or did not provide the proper ID within the allotted time after Election Day as described above; (5) the provisional ballot was incomplete, or the ballot or envelope was illegible; (6) the voter had already voted in that election; or (7) there was no signature on the provisional ballot or the ballot envelope.

Some states provide lists of the reasons for rejecting provisional ballots. The chart below includes 50-state information regarding how states have defined the reasons for rejecting or accepting provisional ballots. When possible the language listed is directly from state sources. 

Reasons for rejecting provisional ballots
Alabama
Information provided by a state election official
A provisional ballot is rejected when:
  • The provisional ballot voter is not registered to vote
  • The provisional ballot voter cast the provisional ballot in a precinct where he/she does not reside
  • The provisional ballot voter is determined to be ineligible to vote based on a challenge
  • The provisional ballot voter fails to provide proper photo ID
  • It is determined that the provisional ballot voter requested and voted an absentee ballot despite the claim that the provisional ballot voter did not vote his/her absentee ballot

Alaska

Alaska Stat. §15.15.198

 

A person whose registration is inactive under AS 15.07.130(b) and who votes a questioned or absentee ballot shall have the ballot counted if:

  • The person was registered to vote in the last four calendar years
  • The person signs a statement to that effect; and
  • The earlier registration is verified by the director

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. §16-584(E)

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Not registered
  • No ballot in envelope
  • Registered after 29-day cut-off
  • No signature
  • Insufficient/illegible information
  • Signature does not match
  • Wrong party
  • Outside jurisdiction ballot
  • Voter challenge upheld
  • Voted in wrong precinct
  • Voted and returned an early ballot
  • Proper identification not provided by deadline
  • Administrative error
  • Not eligible

Arkansas

Rules on Poll Watchers, Vote Challenges, and Provisional Voting

 

A provisional ballot is counted when:

  • It is cast by a registered voter and is the correct ballot for the precinct of the voter’s residence
  • It is cast by a registered voter who presents proof of identity or an affidavit of indigence or religious objection to having his or her photograph made to the county clerk or the county board no later than the first Monday following the election; or
  • It is an absentee ballot and the county board determines that the voter is eligible to vote in the precinct.

California

Election Officer’s Digest, 2014

Elections Observation Rights and Responsibilities, 2014

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Signature doesn’t match voter registration signature
  • NOT for failure to cast a ballot in correct precinct

Colorado

Provisional Ballot FAQ, SOS Website

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Choosing to vote a provisional ballot than vote in correct county
  • If the elector’s registration cannot be verified, the ballot shall not be counted

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-232n

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Not registered in proper precinct at time of casting ballot

Delaware

Del. Code tit. 15, §4948

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Incomplete provisional ballot affidavit that does not include all of the following information: full name, complete address, political party affiliation (primary elections only), and date of birth
  • No suitable identification
  • Not registered to vote in the state or are not registered to vote in the election district in which they were cast

District of Columbia

D.C. Mun. Regs. Tit. 3, §807.3

A provisional ballot (aka special ballot) is counted when:

  • The voter registered to vote at the polls or an early voting center, the voter cast the Special Ballot at the precinct in which the voter maintains residence or at an early voting center designated by the Board;
  • The voter is a qualified elector of the District of Columbia; and
  • The voter did not otherwise vote in the same election.

Florida

Fla. Stat. §101.048

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Not registered
  • Not entitled to vote at the precinct where the person cast a vote

Georgia

Ga. Code §21-2-419 (c)(3) 

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • No registered
  • Not otherwise eligible
  • Registrars unable to determine within three days following the election whether the voter was registered or eligible to vote

Hawaii

Haw. Admin. Rules § 3-172-140

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Any part of the provisional ballot application form or affirmation statement is incomplete, not executed, or altered, the provisional ballot shall be not be counted
  • The county clerk determines the individual is eligible under state law to vote in the precinct the individual wishes to vote in, the individual's provisional ballot shall be counted in accordance with state law
  • The county clerk determines the individual is not eligible to vote in the precinct where the provisional ballot was cast, the provisional ballot shall not be counted

Idaho

N/A

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/18A-15

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Information available to the election authority from five specifically-identified sources opposes registration status. If a conflict exists among the information available, the election authority shall make a determination by a totality of the circumstances
  • The affidavit executed by the voter fails to contain the voter’s first and last name, house number and street name and signature or mark
  • The voter is determined to have voted by mail in the election concerned; or
  • The voter does not provide the election authority with the necessary registration documentation (ID) within 7 days of the election

Indiana

2015 Election Administrator’s Manual

Ind. Code § 3-11.7-5-5

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • The provisional voter affidavit has not been properly executed
  • The provisional voter is not a qualified voter of the precinct
  • The provisional voter failed to provide photo ID, if required
  • The provisional voter did not register to vote at a registration agency on a date within the registration period; or
  • Ballot does not contain the initials of the poll clerks

Iowa

Election Administrator’s Handbook

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Voter did not provide ID and was required to do so
  • Voter was not registered in the precinct on election day
  • Voter already returned an absentee ballot that was counted
  • Voter is not qualified to vote; or
  • Voter is inactive/pending and has not provided ID as required by the time the board meets to consider provisional and challenged absentee ballots

Kansas

Kan. Admin. Regs. § 7-36-7

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • The voter did not provide additional information, an updated signature, or an additional photocopy upon request by the county election officer or if the information, signature, or photocopy is inconsistent with the information on the voter registration list

Kentucky

Ky. Admin. Regs. tit. 31, § 6:020

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • The county board of elections determines the individual is ineligible to vote in the precinct in the election

Louisiana

Information provided by a state election official

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • The voter is not a registered voter or
  • Fails to vote in the precinct where he is eligible to vote in the federal election

 

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 21-A §673

All challenged ballots are initially counted in the same manner as regular ballots. No further determination is made on the challenge unless a recount occurs and it is determined that the challenged ballot could affect the outcome of the election. If there are enough challenged ballots to affect the outcome of an election, then the challenged ballots in that district will be segregated, and the basis for each challenge may be determined by the appropriate authority designated by statute or by state or federal constitution.

Maryland

Md. Election Law §11-303

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Voter is determined not to be qualified
  • The voter failed to sign the oath on the provisional ballot application
  • The individual cast more than one ballot for the same election
  • The local board determines that a provisional ballot is intentionally marked with an identifying mark that is clearly evident and placed on the ballot for the purpose of identifying the ballot; or
  • If the intent of the voter with respect to a particular contest is not clearly demonstrated, the local board shall reject only the vote for that contest

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 54, §76C

A provisional ballot is rejected when:  

  • The city or town clerk determines that the individual is ineligible to vote in the precinct in the election under the law of the commonwealth

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 168.813

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • The voter is not registered
  • The voter did not show a proper ID or verification of residence

Minnesota

N/A

Mississippi

Information provided by a state election official

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • The voter is not a registered voter
  • The voter is registered, but in wrong precinct
  • The voter failed to return to the circuit clerk’s office to present an acceptable form of photo ID within 5 business days of the election
  • The voter failed to sign an affidavit of religious objection to being photographed in the circuit clerks’ office within 5 business days of the election

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. §115.430

Rules of Elected Officials

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • Not registered
  • Not eligible
  • Voted in wrong polling place

Montana

Mont. Code § 13-15-107

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • Officials cannot verify the voter’s identity or eligibility

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. §32-1002(5)

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • The voter is not registered
  • Already voted in county or elsewhere
  • The voter failed to complete and sign a registration application
  • Residence on registration is in a different county or in a different precinct
  • Party affiliation on the registration application completed prior to voting the provisional ballot is different than the party affiliation that appears on the voter’s voter registration record
  • Failed to complete and sign the certification on the envelope or attached form

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. §293.3085

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • Person who cast the provisional ballot cast the wrong ballot for the address at which the person resides

New Hampshire

N/A

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. Ann. §19:53C-17

N.J. Stat. Ann. §19:53C-13

 

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • If the voter already cast a provisional ballot
  • If the name, signature, or address does not match the voter registration record and cannot be verified.

If a provisional ballot voter votes a ballot in a district other than the one in which the voter is qualified to vote, the votes for those offices and questions for which the voter would be otherwise qualified to vote are counted. All other votes are not counted.

New Mexico

2013 Election Handbook

NM ADC 1.10.22

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when: 

  • No signature
  • Not registered
  • Voter is registered to vote in another county in the state
  • If they already cast an absentee ballot

New York

N.Y. Election Law § 5-403

N.Y. Election Law § 9-209

 

A provisional ballot is rejected or accepted when: 

  • research at the county board supports the claim the voter makes in their oath on the ballot envelope, the ballot will be counted. If research proves otherwise, the ballot is not counted. Provisional ballots cast by voters who were in the correct poll site but at the wrong voter sign-in table, will be counted, however only those contests and questions which the two different districts had in common will be counted.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 163-182.2

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when the voter:

  • Did not vote in the proper precinct under G.S. 163-55 and G.S. 163-57
  • Is not registered in the county as provided in G.S. 163-82.1, or
  • Is otherwise not eligible to vote

North Dakota

NDCC § 16.1-13-34

North Dakota does not require voters to register and only uses provisional ballots if a court order has extended the polling hours. If this happens, the secretary of state would proscribe procedures.

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Stat. §3505.183

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when::

  • The voter is not registered
  • The voter Is not eligible to cast a ballot in that precinct or for that election
  • The voter did not provide the required information
  • The voter already voted
  • The voter did not provide any additional information required within 7 days of the election
  • The voeter did not provide a current and valid identification
  • The voter’s information does not match the information in the voter registration database
  • The voter's date of birth is different

Oklahoma

Information provided by a state election official

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Voter is not registered to vote in the county or the voter’s residence address is located in another precinct
  • Voter’s change of party affiliation was not timely received or voter’s residence address is not located within the boundaries of the school district or municipality for which the provisional ballot was cast
  • Voter’s identity cannot be verified as required by state law based upon the information provided on the Provisional Ballot Affidavit
  • The US/OV voter does not provide an address of residence within the county or the address provided is located in another precinct

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. §254.408

 

A provisional ballot is counted when:

  • The elector is validly registered to vote and the vote was properly cast
  • The county clerk determines the registration of the elector is considered active or inactive
  • The elector is qualified to vote for the particular office or on the measure

Pennsylvania

Provisional Balloting Procedures

 

A provisional ballot is rejected or accepted when: 

  • If the board of elections determines that the elector has knowingly voted in an improper election district, the board of elections may declare the ballot to be invalid. However, absent a determination of willfulness by the elector, the board should dispose of the provisional ballot as a ballot cast in the proper county but at an improper election district and count the ballot as to those offices for which, and questions on which, the elector was qualified to vote.

Rhode Island

Rules and Regulations for Provisional Voting

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Voter not registered or in the wrong congressional district
  • Signature on latest voter reg. form on record does not match signature on provisional ballot application
  • Signature on latest voter reg. form on record does not match signature on provisional ballot application and voter has not submitted valid ID by 4 p.m. day following election
  • The individual has cast a mail ballot, emergency ballot or military ballot in the same election

South Carolina

S.C. Code § 7-7-910

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Case in wrong precinct

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-20-5.1

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Not registered

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. §2-7-112 

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • The voter is not properly registered in that precinct
  • The voter already voted in a different precinct

Texas

Tex. Elec. Code §65.054

 

A provisional ballot is counted when:

  • The person is eligible to vote in the election and has not previously voted in that election; or
  • The person:
    • meets the identification requirements
    • the voter executes an affidavit under penalty of perjury that states the voter has a religious objection to being photographed and the voter has consistently refused to be photographed for any governmental purpose from the time the voter has held this belief; or
    • executes an affidavit under penalty of perjury that states the voter does not have any identification as a result of a natural disaster that was declared by the president of the United States or the governor, occurred not earlier than 45 days before the date the ballot was cast; and
  • The voter has not been challenged for any reason other than lack of identification.

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-4-107

A provisional ballot is counted when:

  • The person provides valid voter identification to the county clerk or an election officer who is administering the election by the close of normal office hours on Monday after the date of the election

Vermont

Vt. Stat. Ann. Title 17 § 2555

Vt. Stat. Ann. Title 17 § 2557

Vt. Stat. Ann. Title 17 § 2121

 

If a voter chooses to vote by provisional ballot, the clerk reviews the application and determine eligibility after the close of the polls. The following eligibility conditions must be met:

  • a citizen of the United States;
  • a resident of the state of Vermont;
  • has taken the voter's oath; and
  • 18 years of age or more.
  • Any person meeting the requirements of subdivisions (a)(1)-(3) of this section who will be 18 years of age on or before the date of a general election may register and vote in the primary election immediately preceding that general election.

Virginia

Va. Code § 24.2-653

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Not eligible to vote in precinct
  • Unable to determine right to vote
  • No proper ID

Washington

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-262-032

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • Not registered
  • Already voted a regular ballot
  • Signature on provisional ballot envelope does not match the voter registration record and/or they do not present a proper ID

West Virginia

W. Va. Code § 3-1-41

 

A provisional ballot is rejected or counted when:

 

Provisional ballots may not be counted by the election officials. The county commission shall, on its own motion, at the time of canvassing of the election returns, sit in session to determine the validity of any challenges according to the provisions of this chapter. If the county commission determines that the challenges are unfounded, each provisional ballot of each challenged voter, if otherwise valid, shall be counted and tallied together with the regular ballots cast in the election. The county commission, as the board of canvassers, shall protect the privacy of each provisional ballot cast. The county commission shall disregard technical errors, omissions or oversights if it can reasonably be ascertained that the challenged voter was entitled to vote.

 

Note: Guidance on deciding whether or not to count provisional ballots is provided in the Secretary of State’s manual 2014 Best Practices Guide for Canvass and Recount.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 7.52

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • If voter does not provide the proper documentation to prove eligibility to vote (ID or proof of residency) by 4 p.m. the Friday after the election.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-15-105

 

A provisional ballot is rejected when:

  • The voter is not on the registration rolls and is registering for the first time on Election Day but did not present documentation at the polls or by close of business on the following day.

 

How Does a Voter Find Out If a Provisional Vote Was Counted?

HAVA requires the state or local election official to give the person casting a provisional ballot information on how he or she can find out whether the voted was counted, and, if not, the reason why not. The law says this may be “a toll-free telephone number or an Internet website” established for that purpose.

This requirement often is reflected in state statute, rule, or in the election manual. In 2012, 20 states offered an online tool for voters to find out if their provisional ballot was counted, according to the Election Performance Index from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

What Time Is Allotted to Determine the Status of Provisional Ballots?

Each state establishes when provisional ballots are processed. For example, some states base this timeframe on how long the voter has to prove eligibility as detailed above, or they use the same timeframe as the official election canvass.

Time Allotted to Determine the Status of Provisional Ballots
State When Provisional Ballots Are Counted

Alabama

Provisional Voting in Alabama

By noon, seven days after the election.

Alaska

Alaska Stat. §15.20.205

Fifteen days.

Arizona

Elections Procedures Manual, 2014

Ten business days following the general federal election and five days for all other elections.

Arkansas

Rules on Poll Watchers, Vote Challenges, and Provisional Voting

Forty-eight hours—15 days after the election.

California

Cal. Elec. Code § 14310

The canvass shall commence no later than the Thursday following the election, shall be open to the public, and, for state or statewide elections, shall result in a report of results to the Secretary of State. The canvass shall be continued daily, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays excepted, for not less than six hours each day until completed.

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-8.5-105 (5)

Ten days after a primary or 14 days after a general election.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-232n

Not later than six days after the election or primary.

Delaware

Del. Code tit. 15, § 4948

The day following an election in which provisional ballots were used, the Department shall meet to examine the provisional ballots, determine which of the ballots should be tallied in accordance with the rules stated below, and then tally those ballots.

District of Columbia

Voting by Special Ballot FAQ

Ten days after the election.

Florida

Information provided by a state election official

The provisional ballot count must be completed by noon on the third day after a primary election, and noon on the fourth day after a general election. 

Georgia

Ga. Code. § 21-2-419 (c) (1)

Three days to prove identity or for county registrar to verify registration.

Hawaii

Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 11-174.5

Twenty days.

Idaho

N/A

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/18A-15

Fourteen days following the election.

Indiana

Ind. Code § 3-11.7-5-1

Ten days after the election.

Iowa

Election Administrator’s Handbook

Thursday after Election Day.

Kansas

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 25-3104The Kansas Election Standards

Provisional ballots are counted as part of the intermediate canvass conducted by the county board of canvassers on either the Monday or second Thursday following the election.

Kentucky

Ky. Admin. Regs. tit. 13, § 6:020

Not later than 12 p.m., prevailing time, on the Friday following the election.

Louisiana

La. Rev. Stat. § 18:566.2

Provisional ballots shall be counted on the third day following the election.

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 21-A §673

Reasonable time after the election.

Maryland

Maryland State Board of Elections, Challengers, Watchers & Other Election Observers Manual

If provisional ballot because of lack of proper ID, the voter has until 10 a.m. on the second Wednesday after the election to provide proper ID to local board of elections.

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, § 76C

Twelve days.

Michigan

Election Inspector’s Manual

Six calendar days after the election.

Minnesota

N/A

Mississippi

Mississippi Poll Manager Guide

Five business days.

Missouri

Miss. Code Ann. §115.511

Same time as official canvass, two weeks following the election.

Montana

Mont. Code § 13-15-107

Six days.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1002

The verification and investigation shall be completed within seven days after the election.

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 293.387

Six working days following the election.

New Hampshire

N/A

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. § 19:19-1

Before the Monday following the election when the Board of County Canvassers meets.

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-12-7.1

Voter has until 5 p.m. on the second day following the election to provide proper identification.

New York

N.Y. Election Law, § 9-209

No more than 14 days after a general or special election and no more than eight days after a primary election at which such ballots are voted.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-182.2

Vote counting at the precinct shall occur immediately after the polls close and shall be continuous until completed.

North Dakota

N/A

Ohio

Ohio Code § 3505.183

Until any hearing required to be conducted under section 3503.24 of the Revised Code with regard to the provisional voter is held, or until the eleventh day after the day of the election, whichever is earlier.

Oklahoma

Okla. Admin. Code 230:35-5-177

After 5 p.m. on Friday after Election Day.

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. § 254.426

Fourteen days.

Pennsylvania

About Provisional Voting

Seven days.

Rhode Island

Provisional Ballot Overview

Forty-eight hours after the election.

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 7-13-830,  § 7-17-10, § 7-17-510

Before the board of canvassers meet, on the Thursday following a primary/runoff or the Friday following a general or special election.

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-20-13.212-20-13.3

Seven-17 days following the election, just prior to the official canvass.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. §2-7-112

The counting of all provisional ballots must be completed within four business days of the close of polls on Election Day.

Texas

Tex. Election Code § 65.051

Seven-13 days.

Utah

Utah Code 20A-4-301(1)(b)

Counted during the official canvass no later than 14 days after the election.

Vermont

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2557

Two days after the election.

Virginia

Va. Code § 24.2-653

Seven calendar days from the date of the election.

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.60.190

Fourteen-21 days after the election.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code, § 3-6-9

Provisional ballots are investigated during canvass, on the fifth day after the election.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 7.52

At 4 p.m. the Friday after the election.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-16-103

The first Friday following the election.

 

Which States Do Not Use Provisional Ballots?

States that offered same-day voter registration at the time the National Voter Registration Act was enacted (1993) are also exempt from HAVA’s provisional ballot requirements. Those states are: Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota (which does not require voter registration although it does keep a list of voters), Wisconsin and Wyoming.

While those state are not required to provide provisional ballots under HAVA, they are also not prohibited from using provisional ballots. 

North Dakota, for instance, uses them in cases where the hours at a polling place have been extended. Wisconsin uses provisional ballots for same-day registration when a voter is not able to provide required identification. In this case, a provisional ballot is not counted until identification is shown, allowing the voter to register.

Similarly, Wyoming uses provisional ballots if the voter is not on the registration list and does not have proper identification in order to register on Election Day, if they are challenged by a poll watcher or if there are extended polling hours. The voter is then required to provide additional information, such as proof of residence or identification, in order for the ballot to be counted. The provisional ballot will not be counted if the voter does not provide the requisite information needed for registration.

Idaho, Minnesota and New Hampshire do not issue provisional ballots at all.

Methodology

This information was compiled from various sources, including state statutes and regulations, state election manuals, the Election Assistance Commission Statutory Survey, and conversations with state election directors.

To offer comments or corrections, please contact elections-info@ncsl.org.

Additional Resources

About This NCSL Project

The development of this Web page was generously support by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

NCSL tracks election and campaign issues in four major categories: election laws and procedures, campaign finance, initiative and referendum, and election results and analysis. We provide comprehensive 50-state research and analysis on a wide variety of topics related to these issues.

For redistricting, NCSL provides similar data that covers redistricting laws, commissions and litigation.

Additionally, NCSL's Redistricting and Elections Standing Committee works on issues that affect all states, including voting technology and redistricting systems and technology.

If you don't find the information you need, please contact our elections team at 303-364-7700 or election-info@ncsl.org. NCSL staff can do specialized searches for legislators and legislative staff.