Provisional Ballot Overview

According to California Elections Code 14310, 14311, registered voters whose voter registration or Vote By Mail status cannot be determined may vote a provisional ballot on Election Day.  Provisional voters are voters who typically move to a different residence address within the same county and fail to re-register to vote, or who go to a polling place they are not assigned to and attempt to vote. They may also be voters whose Vote By Mail status cannot be determined.  Provisional voters may vote at polling locations or the Elections Division if they fill out and sign a provisional ballot envelope.

Assigned precincts for registered voters are determined by a voter’s residence as referenced on the voter registration form.  All voters who choose to vote at the polls are encouraged to visit their assigned precinct polling place location. However, voters who choose to vote at a location other than their assigned precinct may vote a provisional ballot.  All polling place staff are trained to notify voters of their voting options, including their eligibility to vote a provisional ballot. After a provisional ballot is voted, the voter’s registration status must be determined at the Elections Division, before the provisional ballot is counted and added to the overall election tally.  If a voter’s registration status cannot be determined, his or her provisional ballot is not counted.

The Elections Code was amended by the State Assembly in 2003.  Prior to that time, most provisional ballot races were not counted.  The current Election Code allows provisional voters whose registration status can be verified, and who vote outside of their precinct location, but within their assigned electoral jurisdictions (such as state legislatures or school boards), to have their vote counted.  Votes for statewide or presidential candidates and ballot measures will also be counted if they are cast outside of a voter’s electoral jurisdiction.

Once a provisional ballot envelope has been researched, the signature verified and the voter’s registration status has been determined, staff determines the eligible contests in those precincts and the contests marked on the ballot.  If a contest or contests on a voted ballot do not represent those contests offered on the precinct ballot, the ballot is remade to include only those votes cast that correspond with those contests offered in the voter’s correct precinct.  Then, eligible ballots are counted and added to the final tally.  All provisional ballot envelopes are marked and entered into the system as “count, partial count, or not counted,” depending on the outcome of the research.