There is a lot of misinformation about provisional ballots. We hope that this page will help you understand exactly what they are and how we use them to ensure that everyone gets a chance to vote.
What is a provisional ballot?
At its most basic, a provisional ballot is a paper ballot that you, the voter, place in a provisional ballot envelope. The envelope contains the information that you provide to us so that we can determine your eligibility and whether you voted the correct ballot.
We carefully review all provisional ballots (still sealed in their envelopes) after Election Day. They are then presented to the County Board of Canvassers. This board makes the final determination concerning whether your provisional ballot will be counted. Historically, more than 70 percent of provisional ballots cast are counted. The meeting of the Board of Canvassers is an open meeting and you are welcome to attend.
Why do provisional ballots happen?
Provisional ballots happen for a variety of reasons. The most common being:
Your name is not found in the poll book - This could be an indication that you went to the wrong polling place or that you are not registered to vote in Wyandotte County. When we get this type of provisional ballot back in the Election Office, we will search through the statewide voter database to see if we can find your registration information. If an error was made at the polling place and you are registered to vote in Wyandotte County, we recommend to the board of canvassers that your ballot count.
If you went to the wrong polling place and cast a provisional ballot, we will recommend to the Board of Canvassers that your ballot be counted partially. Because you will have voted on a ballot created for another precinct, we can only count the offices for which you were eligible to vote.
Your name or address was incorrect in the poll book - This is one of the most common forms of provisional ballots that we see. It happens when you don't think to update your name or address with our office when there is a change. Fortunately, state law allows registrants to update a name and in-county address change at the time of voting. In these cases, the voter registration application attached to the provisional envelope allows us to update your voter registration record and then recommend that your ballot count. You must complete and sign the voter registration application.
You were sent a ballot by mail - When you submit an application for an advance ballot by mail, we mark you "ADVANCE" in our electronic poll book system. If you later choose to vote by a different manner (early in-person or on Election Day), your record will be disabled. By disabling the records of all registrants who have been sent an advance ballot, we can prevent people from voting twice in an election. If your mail ballot is not submitted, we can recommend that the board of canvassers count your provisional ballot. This method ensures you have the right to cast a ballot, but prevents anyone from voting twice in an election.
You fail to show an accepted form of photo ID - While less common than many other types of provisional ballots in Wyandotte County, this does occasionally happen. Perhaps you forgot your wallet at home and don't want to go back and grab it. If you cast a provisional ballot because you haven't shown valid photo ID, you have the opportunity to submit valid photo ID to the Election Office anytime before the canvass. If you do so, we can recommend to the board of canvassers that your ballot count.
What are common reasons that provisional ballots don't count?
While most provisional ballots do count in Wyandotte County, there are some that state law does not allow to be counted. These include:
- ballots cast by persons who are not registered to vote in the jurisdiction (or political party) holding the election
- multiple ballots from the same person
- an advance ballot cast by a deceased person
- ballots from voters who fail to provide required photo identification before the canvass
- ballots where the voter failed to complete and sign the voter affidavit and the new voter registration application on the provisional ballot envelope
- ballots cast by voters who have moved away from this county
How can I ensure that my provisional ballot counts?
If you need to cast a provisional ballot for one of the above reasons, the most important thing you can do is to follow the election worker's instructions carefully and fully. We spend a great deal of time in training walking through the provisional process with our provisional judges so that they can help you through this process. If you have any questions, please ask. If they can't answer your question, the supervising judge in the location should be able to provide further assistance.
To help you understand this process, let's walk through it step by step.
Sign the provisional poll book
As a provisional voter, you do not sign the electronic poll book. Instead, you will sign a paper poll book kept at the provisional table. By separating this process, we can more closely track the provisionals cast at a location and focus the necessary attention on them before the canvass.
Complete and sign the voter affidavit and voter registration application on the envelope
The provisional envelope contains a full copy of the Kansas voter registration application and a special voter affidavit. You must complete and sign both sections. If you fail to do so, Kansas law prohibits your provisional ballot from being counted.
Vote your ballot
The provisional judge will retrieve the correct ballot for your precinct and provide you with a private space for voting. Once you are finished, your provisional ballot will be sealed in the provisional envelope and returned to the Election Office.
Follow up if necessary
The provisional judge will provide you with what we call a provisional receipt. This small slip of paper will provide you with further instructions and information. If you voted a provisional ballot because of a failure to show photo ID, the receipt contains information about providing that to us before the canvass.
How do I know if my provisional ballot counted?
If you wish to check on the status of your provisional ballot, you may contact the Election Office anytime after the canvass to find out if your ballot counted. If it didn't count, we will explain the legal reason for that and help you avoid that in the future.