Fewer Maricopa County Provisional Ballots Rejected This Election

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Monday, November 21, 2016 - 4:53pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 10:18am
(Photo by Jude Joffe-Block - KJZZ News)
A sign directs voters to a polling location.

The number of provisional ballots that county election officials rejected this election is way down compared with four years ago. One reason for the change is that fewer voters tried to vote in the wrong polling place.

In Arizona, voters must vote in their assigned polling place in order for their votes to count. But if a voter’s name does not appear on the rolls, federal law says that voter should have the option of filling out a provisional ballot.

This clash of policies has long been a source of confusion in Arizona elections. Poll workers who should have directed voters to their correct polling site to cast a valid ballot have sometimes instead handed voters provisional ballots that later were never counted.

After this became an issue in litigation following the August primary, Maricopa County was directed by a Superior Court judge to provide better guidance at the polls.

So this fall, poll workers were instructed to make clear to voters that they should go to their correct polling location rather than vote a provisional ballot at the incorrect location. Signs were also posted in each polling place alerting voters their ballots would not count if they were in the wrong location.

In 2012, roughly 7,500 provisional ballots were rejected in Maricopa County because the voter was in the wrong place. That was the top reason why provisional ballots were rejected that year.

This election that number fell to fewer than 2,200 voters who cast ballots in the wrong polling place.

“So that is good news,” said Elizabeth Bartholomew of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office. “That is showing us that voters are realizing that every primary and general election you are going to have to go to your assigned polling place if you want your vote to count.”

Bartholomew said her office had also done additional outreach on social media about this rule this year.

Maricopa County rejected more than 15,200 provisional ballots total this election compared with 23,000 four years ago. The most common reasons provisional ballots were disqualified this year were because the voter was not registered to vote or registered past the deadline to participate in the election.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that Maricopa Country rejected about 23,000 provisional ballots in 2012.