During elections in the United States, citizens may receive a regular ballot when all of their information is correct, or a provisional ballot when there is doubt about their eligibility to vote regularly. The latter has been the subject of suspicion and the central subject of various allegations of electoral fraud, despite the fact that experts indicate they are credible.
“They’re an easy way to make sure everyone registered to vote casts their vote,” said Charles Stewart III, director of the MIT Elections Laboratory in Boston.
All states except Idaho, Minnesota and New Hampshire offer these ballots, sometimes called “challenges” or “affidavits”. However, these states allow same-day registration to vote, so residents can register and vote on the same day as the election.
Each state defines its own guidelines for deciding when provisional ballots are needed and how to process them.
According to information from the Election Assistance Commission, which releases a national analysis after each general election, the most common reasons for casting a provisional ballot include if an election official questions a voter’s eligibility or can’t find the name on the ballot. . List of registered voters, if a voter does not present authorized identification or does not reside in the district in which they wish to vote.
Provisional ballots are set aside for review when polling closes on Election Day, but delays in their counting have led to confusion and allegations of voter fraud.
For example, former President Donald Trump and other skeptics about the 2020 election results questioned why some states continued counting votes long after voting closed.
One of the widely circulated questions is whether filling out a provisional ballot means that someone else has already cast a fraudulent vote on your behalf and ultimately your vote will not be counted.
However, the National Conference of State Legislatures, an independent research group that works for legislators across the country, ensures that all ballots at every election are verified by election officials. According to the organization, if they believe a ballot is valid, they will count it, no matter how large the margin of victory in a given election.
Election officials are also required to inform voters whether their provisional ballot was counted or rejected, as well as the reason for the rejection, either through a toll-free phone line or an online tool.
Stewart said that when provisional ballots are verified they are added to the final count.
“If you compare the total votes on election night to the total votes already included in the provisional ballots, it looks like someone is filling the ballot box. Rather, after the election, the votes of the people who voted on election day The count is done,” he said in an email.
According to a recent analysis by the Election Assistance Commission, provisional ballots account for a tiny fraction of all votes cast: less than 1% in 2020, 1.4% in 2016, and 1.7% in 2012. Most recent presidential election.
The commission revealed that in 2020, a total of about 1.7 million provisional ballots were issued across the country, of which 78% were counted and 21% rejected.
Associated Press answers your questions about the election in this series. Send them to: [email protected] Associated Press.org.
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Can non-citizens vote in US elections?