What is a "provisional ballot" and how do you get one?

Posted at 9:20 AM, Nov 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 12:20:43-05

On Election Day some voters may be more prepared than others. If you have yet to turn in your ballot, there are still ways to exercise your civic right. 23ABC's Kristin Vartan has a look at how you can still register to vote.

Let's say you thought you had registered to vote but didn't, or your ballot got some wear and tear before you could cast your absentee ballot or maybe you moved counties or went to the wrong polling site. That's where a provisional ballot comes into play.

But it just might take some extra steps. If you were hoping to avoid the lines at polling sites on Election Day but need a provisional ballot, our political analysts say you'll still need to make your way over. Dr. Ivy Cargile explains that this "safeguards" the process from voter fraud.

"If you're a provisional voter, you will end up putting a little grain of sand into the whole jar. It's not like it will be excluded it will be counted," said Cargile. "You don't mail it in because you have to vote right then and there, and it's counted assuming that the registrar is able to identify your identity and your eligibility."

Here's a breakdown of that process: once you find a local polling site that offers this voting option, you'll need a verifiable signature, or if it's your first time voting, your I.D. And then: "You'll just fill out a regular ballot. So, all the voting and everything will be the same, the only thing is that it will get put in a special envelope so you can be verified," said Allen Bolar, 23ABC political analyst, and Bakersfield College professor.

Bolar explains that any U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older, non-incarcerated can request a provisional ballot. Once you go through this process, Cargile says you're permanently registered to vote.
He adds that registrars have up to 30 days to certify an election, and it's in that time period that they could be verifying provisional ballots.

This can slow the process down a little for a registrar but "the California system was meant to be slow. It's slow by design for purposes of making sure that fraud isn't being committed," said Cargile. "It's slow for purposes for making sure every vote counts. It's slow for purposes of making sure that the franchise of voting is actually protected."

Keep in mind that not all polling sites do same-day registration. You can find out more about provisional balloting in California online.