FAQ - Free Access

What is the "Free Access" System and How Does it work?

Section 302 (a) (5) of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) states that: "At the time that an individual casts a provisional ballot, the appropriate State or local election official shall give the individual written information that states that any individual who casts a provisional ballot will be able to ascertain ... whether the vote was counted, and if the vote was not counted, the reason it was not counted." Please also refer to Elections Code section 14310 (d).

Underlying this requirement is an intent that every person who votes provisionally has a right to know if his or her ballot was counted and, if it was not counted, the reason why not, so the voter can correct his or her error for the next election.

Important things to know about this process include:

1. Each county must construct a "free access" system.

2. How the "free access" system works is up to each county, as long as it meets the requirements of the law. So, the system can be a toll-free telephone system, an Internet system, etc.

3. Every person who votes a provisional ballot must be given written information about how to use the "free access" system.

4. Each county must "establish and maintain reasonable procedures necessary to protect the security, confidentiality, and integrity of personal information" on the "free access" system.

5. Access to information about an individual provisional ballot shall be restricted to the individual who cast the ballot.

6. The "free access" system must meet the following minimum standards (please see CCROV 04030, issued January 21, 2004, and titled "Implementing Identification and Provisional Ballot Requirements of HAVA"):

A. No fee to access the system

B. The system must be available during normal business hours, at a minimum. If possible the system should be available at all hours.

C. The system must treat all voters equally.

D. The system may rely on a password, but the password may not include, in whole or in part, the voter's driver's license number, California ID number, or social seecurity number.

E. The system must ensure that other than election officials only the voter who cast the provisional ballot has access to information about whether that ballot was counted and if not why not.

F. The system may not reveal how the ballot was marked.

G. The system must reveal to the voter if his or her provisional ballot was counted, and if it was not counted the reason why not.

H. The system must inform the voter how to register to vote and provide every non-registered provisional voter with a form to register to vote.

I. The system must be accessible to persons with disabilities and persons who do not speak fluent English.

J. The system must establish a deadline following the election after which the "free access" information will be available.

K. The system may, but is not required to, proactivelyand regardless of whether the voter requests the information, notify EVERY provisional voter whether his or her ballot was counted and, if it was not counted, the reason it was not counted.

L. The system may, but is not required to, provide every provisional voter at a polling place apostage-paid return postcard for requesting "free access" information.

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