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You’re given a provisional ballot at the polling place. What does that mean?

You arrive at your voting precinct ready to cast your vote.

But the poll worker at the early voting center or at your precinct can’t find your name in the voter registration system. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten to bring a valid photo ID with you.

Instead of turning you away, the poll worker hands you something called a “provisional ballot” for you to cast your vote.

What is a provisional ballot?

A provisional ballot is given to voters who say they are properly registered in the state and that they’re eligible to vote at the precinct in a particular election, but their eligibility cannot be determined in that moment, according to Suzy Trutie, Miami-Dade County’s deputy supervisor of elections.

If you are given a provisional ballot when you show up to vote, fill it out as you would a regular ballot. After you submit a provisional ballot, it gets sent to a local canvassing board that will determine whether the ballot will ultimately be accepted or rejected.

“The provisional ballot is … the same as the ballots which are being used by voters for the election,” Trutie said. “But it’s placed in a secrecy envelope and then it’s sealed in another envelope. That provisional ballot will be presented to the canvassing board and they will make a determination.”

Depending on the circumstances that caused you to receive a provisional ballot in the first place, you might have to complete another step to ensure that the canvassing board accepts your ballot.

What you need to do

If you are given a provisional ballot at your polling center because you did not provide an acceptable photo and signature identification at the polls, you likely do not have to do anything else for your ballot to count.

“The local canvassing board will simply compare your signature on the provisional…

Erin Doherty

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