How to Make Sure Your Provisional Ballot Gets Counted

If you showed up at a polling place on election day and were told you couldn’t vote—perhaps records showed that you were not registered—we hope you remembered to ask to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are only counted if it turns out that you are eligible to vote so you should make sure to check up on the ballot to make sure your vote got recorded.

Several states have instituted stricter voter ID laws since the 2016 presidential election; more…

What is a provisional ballot?

All states except Idaho Minnesota and New Hampshire have a process for provisionally accepting your vote and determining in the following days whether your vote should be counted. (Those states do not have provisional ballots because they have same-day registration so if you are told you’re not registered you can register on the spot.) Often you will fill out a paper ballot and election officials should give you information on how to follow up.

If your candidate wins (or loses) in a landslide provisional ballots don’t matter much. They tend to be a small percentage of all the ballots cast. But in close races they matter a lot. Right now ballots are still being counted in the race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp for governor of Georgia.

Find out the policies for your state

The process for counting provisional ballots varies by state. In Georgia you can check your ballot’s status online. The Georgia Democrats also have a Voter Protection hotline at 1-888-730-5816.

In Georgia ballots are counted three days after the election. Each state has their own timeline: two days in New Mexico 20 days in Hawaii a “reasonable time after the election” in Maine.

You may need to provide information for your vote to be counted. For example if you were turned away because you did not have a required ID you may have to show ID at an elections office. (Georgia’s information on provisional ballots is here.)

According to FiveThirtyEight fifteen other races of national significance are too close to call: Senate races in Arizona Florida and Mississippi and 12 House races in California Georgia Maine Minnesota (which does not issue provisional ballots) New Jersey Utah North Carolina and Washington. If you voted provisionally in any of those races and haven’t heard about your ballot’s status check with your state’s election offices today.