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Report: Hundreds of Thousands of Provisional Votes Never Counted

By    |   Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 06:04 PM

Hundreds of thousands of votes never get counted despite the purportedly fail-safe mechanism of provisional balloting, which is designed to let those who run into problems at the polls still cast their votes, National Public Radio reports.

According to NPR, more than a million provisional ballots will be cast this fall either because voters lack identification or because poll workers can't find the voter's name on the rolls — and at least a quarter of these votes won't count.

In Virginia, for example, the state has been preparing to meet a new requirement that all voters show a photo I.D. at the polls, and it's estimated that 200,000 voters there may not have the right I.D., NPR notes.

If they show up at the polls, they'll likely be asked to use a provisional ballot, which then means the voter has three days to clear up any problems, Arlington, Va., County General Registrar Linda Lindberg told NPR.

But Lindberg says the county counted only about half of the 161 provisional ballots cast there last year — and rejected the rest.

Rules for provisional ballots also vary, NPR reports. In California, for example, they're routinely used to update a voter's information, such as a new address, but in other states, they're rarely used and even more rarely counted.

Michael Hanmer, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, told NPR there's also evidence that whether a provisional ballot counts sometimes depends on an election official's political affiliation.

"That should strike anybody as problematic," he says.

In 2012, almost 3 million provisional ballots were cast, NPR reports, and Lindberg contends some voters cast such ballots even if they know they won't count because they're in the wrong precinct.

"It kind of mollifies them, I guess, in cases like that. They can get their little 'I Voted' sticker so they can tell their friends that they voted," Lindberg said.

Provisional ballots could lull people into thinking their votes will count when they may not, NPR notes.

For example, the Supreme Court last week allowed North Carolina to stop counting ballots cast in the wrong precinct while a new voting law is being challenged.

"That, to me, is a disenfranchised voter, and I believe, unfortunately, these voters aren't told that some of their ballots may not count and probably will not count," Susan Myrick, of the Civitas Institute in Raleigh, N.C., told NPR.

Almost 6,000 such ballots were counted in North Carolina in 2010, but NPR reports that this year, none of them will count.

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Hundreds of thousands of votes never get counted despite the purportedly fail-safe mechanism of provisional balloting, which is designed to let those who run into problems at the polls still cast their votes, National Public Radio reports.
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Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 06:04 PM
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