Provisional Voting

While provisional voting may be relatively new in some areas of the country, California's provisional voting statutes have been in effect since 1984.

Provisional voting exists in California for two fundamental reasons:

First, provisional voting ensures that no properly registered voter is denied their right to cast a ballot if that voter's name is not on the polling place roster due to a clerical, processing, computer, or other error.

Second, provisional voting allows elections officials to ensure that no voter votes twice, either intentionally or inadvertently, in a given election.

The most common circumstances when an elections official will ask a voter to cast a provisional ballot are:

Both federal and state law permit any voter who cast a provisional ballot to find out if their ballot was counted and Elections Code section 2142 gives voters the right to go to court in order to compel county elections officials to register them to vote and to count their ballot.

No provisional ballot is counted or precluded from being counted until the elections official goes through the detailed process to determine whether a voter's provisional ballot should be counted. (Elections Code sections 14310-14311, 15350, and 15100-15112.)

Equally important, every provisional ballot -- whether it is counted or rejected -- and provisional ballot envelope is kept by the the elections official for a minimum of 22 months for every election in which a candidate for federal office is on the ballot. (Elections Code sections 17300-17506.)

Free Access System

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires each state or local elections official to establish a "Free Access System," such as a toll-free telephone number for voters to call or an Internet website that voters can access free of charge, to ascertain if they voted a provisional ballot at the polls, whether or not their vote was counted, and, if it was not counted, the reason why it was not counted.

Each county elections office has established a free access system for voters to determine if their provisional ballot was counted and, if it was not counted, the reason why it was not counted. Information on each county elections official's free access system can be found at Check Status of Your Ballot.

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