News Release

What If Provisional Ballots Exceed the Margin of Victory?


Novakowski is a senior policy analyst with Demos and the author of the recent report “Provisional Ballots: Where to Watch in 2008.” He said today: “When implemented correctly, provisional ballots can enfranchise voters. However, when states adopt unnecessarily stringent standards for counting them and poll workers are not adequately trained in their administration, provisional ballots can have the opposite effect.”

According to the report: “More than one in three of the nearly two million provisional ballots cast in the 2004 election were ultimately rejected. Compared to 2004, fewer provisional ballots were cast and a higher percentage were counted in the 2006 election, yet problems remained. In 2008, continued high rates might exceed the margin of victory in several highly contested states in the November presidential race, possibly resulting in uncertainty on the ultimate outcome and increasing the likelihood of post-election litigation. … The largest percentage of rejected provisional ballots, 43.1 percent in 2006, were invalidated because voters were logged as ‘not registered,’ despite the voter’s belief that they were in fact registered. … Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia categorically reject all provisional ballots [cast in the wrong precinct]. … Where multiple precincts are housed in a single polling place, a voter who merely gets in the wrong line can see her ballot voided. In 2006, 15.4 percent of rejected provisional ballots were thrown out because they were cast in the wrong precinct. … Ohioans cast 127,758 provisional ballots in 2006, the second-highest number in the nation.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167