Illinois voters who believe they are registered to vote but whose names do not appear on the registration lists at the polls now have the right to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, said Cook County Clerk David Orr.
"The goal is to make sure that all qualified voters are given the opportunity to cast a ballot," said Orr, who administers elections in suburban Cook County. "No voter can be turned away at the polls, even if their registration cannot be found or there is a question regarding their eligibility."
As part of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), provisional voting takes effect nationwide in 2004. Election judges will issue a provisional ballot only if the voter meets one of the following:
- His or her name does not appear on a list of registered voters.
- His or her voting status has been challenged.
- A court order is issued instructing the polling place to remain open after 7 p.m.
- He or she is required to show ID before voting but does not have it with them at the polling place.
All provisional voters must vote in their correct polling place and sign a legal affidavit before receiving a provisional ballot.
After voting, the provisional voter places the ballot card into a sealed envelope that election judges keep separate from regular ballots. After the polls close, all provisional ballots are delivered to the Clerk’s office for verification.
Election officials then have up to 14 days to determine each provisional voter’s eligibility and count the ballots if the registration is verified.
If the Clerk’s office determines the voter is registered, eligible to vote and voted in his or her assigned precinct, the envelope will be opened and the ballot counted. The final vote total for each of the candidates will be adjusted to include all provisional votes before final election results are issued.
If the voter is not registered or eligible to vote, the envelope will not be opened and the votes will not be counted. However, the information supplied on the envelope will serve as a registration application and the name will be added to the voter rolls before the next election.
The use of provisional ballots will likely delay determining the winners of close races, as state law has extended the certification of official election results by two weeks, Orr noted.
"Depending on the margin of victory and the number of provisional ballots that have yet to be counted in a specific race, we would not be able to determine the winning candidates in certain races on election night," Orr said. "Despite the delay, it will be worth it to know that the rights of qualified voters are safeguarded and their votes will count."
All voters who cast provisional ballots will have an opportunity to find out if their ballot was counted, and if not, learn the reason why.