LWVUS Issues Recommendations for
New Federal Provisional Ballot Requirement
October 10, 2003
Helping America Vote: A Guide to Implementing the New Federal Provisional Ballot Requirement provides policymakers with a set of model practices and recommendations to make certain that provisional ballots serve their intended purpose: to protect the right of each eligible voter to cast a ballot and have it counted.
"The new federal provisional ballot requirement is the number one good government reform that must be in place for the 2004 elections," stated Kay J. Maxwell, LWVUS president. "Between 1.5 million and 3 million voters were not able to cast a ballot in the 2000 presidential election because of problems in voter registration systems," Maxwell noted, "and, in passing the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, Congress provided a new safeguard for these voters."
"Until HAVA, approximately half the states offered some form of contingent voting, which allowed certain voters, about whom questions were raised, to cast a ballot that would be counted after election officials verified their eligibility. These ballots were called 'special ballots,' 'conditional ballots,' 'provisional ballots,' or 'affidavit ballots.' Now, for the first time since the chaos of the 2000 elections, everyone must be able to cast a ballot and, if they are eligible, have that vote counted," Maxwell added. "Effective implementation of the provisional ballot requirement is the single most important way to stop the disenfranchisement of eligible voters," argued Maxwell.
"We are pleased with the early feedback from election officials," said Maxwell. "The Helping America Vote monograph was designed to be a user-friendly resource, full of useful information from states that recently enacted provisional ballot systems as well as those with long experience with this procedure. We are well aware of the important choices states have to make, and the significant impact these decisions will have on how effective this protection proves to be," Maxwell stated. The report is being distributed widely to election officials at all levels of government, media organizations, the election reform community, federal and state lawmakers, and grassroots citizens groups.
"The key issues raised by this report are important to the election process in your town or community," Maxwell noted. "For instance, do you know how the state is planning to count provisional ballots? Are there plans to address registration and eligibility questions ahead of time in order to reduce the need for provisional ballots? And how will voters know whether or not their vote was counted?"
"The League is known for working closely with election officials to make the system work better, and this report is part of our ongoing efforts. With effective implementation of provisional ballots, we will not have another election where voters are turned away and ballots of eligible citizens go uncounted," Maxwell concluded.
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