Provisional Voting

General Overview

A voter receives a provisional ballot when questions arise about:

  • The voter’s qualification to vote,
  • The voter’s eligibility to vote in a given election, or
  • The voter’s eligibility to vote a specific ballot style.

A provisional ballot also is used when a voter does not or cannot present photo ID when voting in person.

Election officials hold provisional ballots aside as they conduct research about the voter’s eligibility. Based on the research, county board of elections members make final determinations about voter eligibility. Election results are not finalized until all provisional ballots that are eligible are counted.

Specific reasons why a voter may vote provisionally are listed below. Through provisional voting, all citizens have the opportunity to cast a ballot, even if such questions arise. Provisional voting is fail-safe voting. State law mandates that no person shall be denied the option to vote a provisional ballot. In no circumstance should a voter be turned away.

Provisional Procedures

If a voter is not able to cast a regular ballot, the voter will go the Help Station for help casting a provisional ballot. The voter will receive a Help Referral Form explaining the reason for the referral to the Help Station.

Provisional Voting Packet

An election official at the Help Station will help the voter complete a Provisional Voting Application and provide a provisional ballot and envelope. Then, the voter will complete the ballot in private, seal the ballot in the envelope and return the envelope to the Help Station.

Provisional Voter Instructions

Each provisional voter will receive a Provisional Identification Number (PIN). The voter can use this, along with their date of birth, to check the status of their provisional ballot. (This status will not be available earlier than 10 days after the date of the election.)

The election official will also inform the voter, if applicable, of any additional steps the voter must take to ensure their ballot counts.

To check the status of a provisional vote, a voter may:

  1. Check online: Provisional Search.
  2. Call (919) 814-0700 or (866) 522-4723 (toll-free).

Provisional Process

All provisional envelopes are returned to a county board of elections. County board of elections staff research details of provisional applications, and the voter’s eligibility, and provide results to the county board of elections. For example, if a voter does not appear on the pollbook but claims to have registered, elections officials will research to see if there was a registration attempt.

No election results are finalized until the determination of the statuses of the provisional ballots has been made. If a provisional application is approved, only then will the voter’s provisional ballot be removed from the sealed envelope and the ballot counted or, if applicable, partially counted. Ballots are partially counted if a provisional voter was not entitled to vote for all contests on the ballot.

If a provisional application is not approved, the ballot remains sealed in the provisional envelope.

Reasons for Provisional Voting

  • No Record of Registration – A voter’s record of registration cannot be found in the voter registration list at the time the voter presents to vote at the voting place.
  • Unreported Move – A voter provides an address different from the voter’s registered address, and the voter indicates that the move to the new address occurred 30 or more days before Election Day.
  • Previously Removed – A voter was previously registered in the county but the registration was canceled. A voter's registration may be canceled for a number of reasons (moved within state; moved to another state; felony conviction; removed due to list maintenance; successful voter challenge; deceased, etc.).
  • No Acceptable ID – A voter does not present acceptable identification under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
  • Unrecognized Address – An election official is unable to locate a voter’s address in the county’s street lookup files.
  • Incorrect Precinct – This provisional voting reason is used when a voter requests to vote at a polling place on Election Day that is not the voter’s proper precinct. The voter’s proper precinct is the precinct assigned to the voter based on residential address 30 or more days before Election Day.
  • Incorrect Party – During a partisan primary, a voter insists on voting a ballot for a political party that the voter is not affiliated with.
  • Voter Already Voted – A voter’s record indicates that the voter has already cast a ballot in the election.
  • Jurisdiction Dispute – A voter presents to vote and has no eligible ballot style or the voter requests to vote in a contest not in the voter's assigned voting district based on his or her legal voting residence.
  • Voted During Extended Hours – The hours for voting are extended by the State Board of Elections or a court order. Voters who cast a ballot during extended hours must vote a provisional ballot.