November 5, 2008
by Emily Levy, for No More Stolen Elections!
HAVA, the "Help America Vote Act of 2002," establishes the requirement that states provide provisional ballots for those voters whose eligibility to vote cannot be determined at the time of voting. Provisional ballots are not counted on election night, but must first go through a qualification process to determine whether or not the voter was eligible 1) to vote at all, and 2) to vote in all races on the ballot that was cast. Even where the ballots are counted secretly inside electronic voting machines, the process of qualifying the ballots is one that is observable. Observing this process can increase the chances that it is conducted fairly, in part by providing a deterrent to biased decision-making.
After voting on a provisional ballot, the voter places her or his ballot into a provisional ballot envelope (sample) and writes specific identifying information on the outside of the envelope. After the election, the information on the outside of the envelope is used to determine whether or not the voter's vote should be counted. The ballots that will be counted are then removed from the envelopes, separated from the envelopes (which contain the voters' names, addresses, etc.) and counted.
Click here for "[t]ips for observing the processes of qualifying provisional ballots and of counting provisional and absentee ballots."
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