We’ve all heard of them and the stigma that goes along with them, but what does it really mean to fill out a provisional ballot? The truth is, we take extra special measures to ensure all eligible provisional ballots are counted.
Provisional ballots are used as a checks and balances system when there is question about a person’s eligibility to vote. The ballots are sealed in an envelope and brought back to the Board of Elections where staff works tirelessly to verify whether or not the voter is who they say they are, that they are in fact registered to vote, and that they haven’t voted yet. More often than not, provisional ballots are counted just like any other ballot.
You voted provisional, now what?
We received more than 10,000 provisional ballots in the 2016 Primary Election. A special team comprised of temporary and full time staff manually reviews every ballot—more than once—to determine whether or not a voter is eligible to vote and if their ballot should be counted. Here’s what happens next, in a nutshell:
Phase 1: Verification
We cross reference the personal information printed on the provisional ballot envelope with our voter database to see if the information matches. We also check to see if the voter voted in the correct precinct and polling location. We update our database as needed with new voter information. If a voter’s eligibility is still questionable, their ballot envelope goes to our quality assurance team for further review.
Phase 2: Check the Poll Books
Many voters who complete provisional ballots do so because they did not update their home address. We manually check each poll book to confirm a provisional voter did not sign the book (which indicates they voted) at their former polling location.
Phase 3: Verification from Opposite Party
Everything is bipartisan at the Board of Elections, including our verification process. Every ballot envelope that was verified in the first step is now reviewed by a member of the opposite political party. A democrat and republican will have signed off on every verified ballot envelope before they can be opened.
Phase 4: Count and Open Ballot Envelopes
After the provisional ballots have been counted, the envelopes are finally opened. Staff works in pairs, one democrat and one republican, to open envelopes and prepare ballots for scanning.
Phase 5: Scan the ballots
The ballots are scanned and the votes are counted! After the ballots are scanned, each individual’s voter history record is manually updated to reflect that they successfully voted in this particular election.
2016 Primary Election Provisional Ballot Results
A total of 10,401 provisional ballots were cast in Cuyahoga County in the 2016 Primary Election. Of the total ballots cast, 8,430 ballots were valid and 1,971 were rejected. View our official certification report for a deeper breakdown of all election results, including specific reasons as to why some provisional ballots were rejected.
For even more background on provisional ballots, visit our Secretary of State’s website.
Questions? Leave your questions in the comments below, or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-443-6413.
Author: Cathy Bajic, Community Outreach Coordinator, Cuyahoga County Board of Elections