NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – This Election Day, millions of Tennesseans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots and make their voices heard. But if they weren’t registered to vote in time, or their local election commission office can’t find them on the voter rolls, they may receive a provisional ballot.
A provisional ballot is a type of ballot given if a voter does not appear on the voter rolls, according to Davidson County Elections Administrator Jeff Roberts.
“A provisional ballot in general is usually when a person comes to their local polling location and they’re not registered or we don’t think they’re registered,” he told News 2. “We let you vote a provisional ballot. Maybe there was a typo or a mistake, or we didn’t get the record; a lot of things could happen.”
Provisional ballots are required by law. They were included in the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002.
Provisional ballots are also kept separate from the others until after Election Day. At that time, election commissioners – one from each party – will determine whether a voter’s ballot should count in the election or not. The ones who are cleared will count for that election. If the commissioners determine the voter was not on the roll for a legitimate reason, that vote will not count.
“If you should have been an eligible voter, your provisional ballot will count. If not, we will send you a letter that tells you why you didn’t count,” Roberts said.
Some reasons why a provisional ballot may not be counted include a voter was registered in a different county, they missed the voter registration deadline for that election or they previously requested an absentee ballot.
Provisional ballots can also be given to voters who are registered but forgot to bring their photo ID as required by Tennessee law. In that case, Roberts said, voters have two days to return to the election commission office with their valid photo ID to prove their identity.
In a typical election year, Roberts said, Davidson County will give out around 500 provisional ballots across all precincts. Some of them end up being added to the official tally, while others are rejected.
This year, there is also a special provisional ballot for the 438 Davidson County voters who were given the wrong ballot during the early voting period. The Davidson County Election Commission identified the voters who were given an incorrect ballot and announced they would have the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day.
“If your name is on that list, you have an opportunity, if you choose to, to come out to our office on Election Day any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and we will let you vote a special provisional ballot that has been created just for you,” Roberts said.
No matter if voters need a provisional ballot or not, Roberts said they can rest assured that the commission has worked tirelessly to ensure the security of the election.
“I think what they need to know is we have spent a lot of time this week comparing our maps to the state maps, and those issues, except for these people that will vote on a paper ballot in a yellow envelope on Election Day, everyone else matches up,” he said. “You should be good. You shouldn’t be concerned that you’re getting the wrong ballot.”