Provisional ballots provide rights to people who are unsure if they are eligible to vote or if their eligibility is questioned. The vast majority of people in Pinellas County and across the United States will likely not encounter a provisional ballot, but knowing what it is can prepare you in case you need to fill one out at the polls.
What is a Provisional Ballot?
When a person goes to cast their vote on election day they may not find themselves on the voter registration list. This is when a provisional ballot may be used.
A provisional ballot is offered if a person’s name is not found on the voter registration list, a person does not have an Identification Card, or his or her eligibility to vote is in question. The provisional ballot prevents a voter from being turned away by giving them the opportunity to vote on a ballot that will then be reviewed by election officials to determine if the information provided by the voter is eligible.
Through a free access system (i.e. toll-free telephone number, internet website) provided by state or local election officials, voters can check to see if their vote was counted or not. If it was not counted, the voter can see their reason for ineligibility. This information on the free access system is required to be given to the voter in writing when the provisional ballot is cast, and is known as a Notice of Rights.
Provisional Ballots Are Protected By The Federal Government
Provisional ballots are part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Under Section 302. (a) ‘Provisional Voting Requirements’, of the Help America Vote Act(HAVA) of 2002, Congress states that an individual may be permitted to cast a provisional ballot upon written affirmation by the individual before an election official at the polling place, stating that the individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which they desire to vote in, and is eligible to vote in that election. It is then sent to a state or local election official for verification.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission(EAC) was created as a result of the HAVA of 2002. This commission develops guidance for states in order to meet the requirements of the Act. The EAC also administers payments to states and serves as a resource of information regarding election administration.
Under this law, no one whose right to vote is questioned should be turned away without filling out a ballot. At the very least, they can fill out a provisional ballot and it will either be counted later or rejected if they are, in fact, ineligible to vote.
Florida Also Has a Provisional Ballot Law
While federal regulations set the stage for provisional ballots, Florida also has state-level guidelines for this form of voting. The law for provisional ballots for the State of Florida is found underFlorida Statutes Title IX, Chapter 101.048 ‘Provisional Ballots’.
In Florida, if an individual is eligible, but their eligibility cannot be determined, they are deemed not eligible by an election official, or they fall into the category of “other persons specified in the code,” they are entitled to a provisional ballot. Once submitted, the voter has until 5pm the second day following the election to submit any evidence supporting his or her eligibility to vote to the supervisor of elections who will review the provisional ballot. The voter’s provisional ballot will then be reviewed to determine if the voter was entitled to vote at the precinct that it was cast in and if that the person had not already voted.
If it is determined the voter was eligible then the signature on the provisional ballot is compared to the voter registration signature, and if matched, the ballot will be counted. If the individual voting was not registered or entitled to vote at the precinct where it was cast for that election, the provisional ballot will not be counted, will remain in the envelope, and will be marked ‘rejected as illegal’.
Know Your Voting Rights
If you arrive at the polls and are told you are ineligible, know your rights. Ask to fill out a provisional ballot and you can check your eligibility in the days following.
The League of Women Voters in the St. Petersburg Area works to provide voter education and information to residents of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. Keep reading to learn more about the voting process, including how you can submit an absentee ballot in Pinellas County.