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Provisional Ballots: How They Impact The Race

We have reached the conclusion of the count of in-person and mail-in ballots from Tuesday’s primary election.

What comes next few people truly understand.

There are still votes that have not been fully counted and some that cannot be finished tabulating until May 24.

So when you hear that a recount cannot be called until May 26 at the earliest, you’re about to learn why.

Military and overseas voters have until May 24 to return their completed ballots. This process applies to active duty service members absent from their voting residence; eligible spouses or family members of active duty service members; or U.S. citizens residing outside the country.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) works to ensure Service members, their eligible family members, and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so – from anywhere in the world.

The remaining votes to be counted are provisional ballots – among the most misunderstood ballots in the Commonwealth.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 established the provisional ballot as a mechanism to ensure that no eligible voter is turned away at the polls.

First, voters that are issued a provisional ballot always ask the same question – why did I not get a “regular” ballot?

Simple. The voter’s name does not appear in the poll book or on the general registration list. On occasion, it is a first-time voter who does not have an acceptable form of ID. Or it could be a voter whose identity or residency has been challenged.

The provisional ballot permits them to cast their vote but it is not officially recorded until their information can be verified.

Each provisional ballot has “timing marks” so that it cannot be read by voting machines at the precinct. Therefore, each provisional ballot must be reviewed by its county board of elections.

Each ballot is individually sealed in a special provisional envelope with written information provided on the outside by the voter and the judge of election. Only when this information is verified will the envelope be opened.

  • whether the voter was registered in the county and in the election district in which the ballot was cast;
  • whether the voter has registered in another election district, in another county or at all;
  • whether the voter who cast a provisional ballot did not vote in any other manner in the election; and
  • whether the voter’s signature is genuine.
  • Whether the voter attempted to register through PennDOT or online voter registration and that attempt is verified.

From personal experience during the 2020 presidential election, if reviewed properly, each provisional took me a minimum of 60 seconds to complete. In my county, we had over 8,000 provisionals. That’s 8,000 minutes or 133 man-hours to complete. So a four-person review team needed four days to finish the task. The Commonwealth Election Code requires that provisional ballots be canvassed with seven days of the election.

The review of provisionals may be attended by the public, the press, candidates, watchers, attorneys and others.

So if you want to know why we still don’t have winners in the Republican Senate race, nor the Democratic 12th Congressional District chase, now you know. It’s why you’ll hear election directors often tell their county commissioners – we will tabulate the vote accurately, as quickly as possible.


4 Responses

  1. Also, you have people showing up at the polls who voted by mail. Aren’t they issued a provisional ballot and the mail in not counted. I think it would be crazy to do that as I am happy to vote by mail but I thought I read that is what happens. Could be wrong.

    1. if the elector who received a Mail ballot chooses to vote In person, the M I ballot ballot and its envelopes must be brought to the poll, where the mail b packet is destroyed by the poll worker, thus the elector cannot ‘vote twice. ‘

  2. Voter Fraud!!! Doug Mastriano stole this election and now Barketta is trying to steal it back with more fraud!

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