One provisional ballot counts toward final vote totals

Of the 31 provisional ballots the Brown County Election Board reviewed Nov. 18, only one counted toward candidates’ final vote totals.

That vote didn’t change the outcome in any race.

A provisional ballot is offered to a voter when the person’s name doesn’t appear on the poll registration book in the precinct they visit on Election Day, when they don’t show identification, or when there’s some other concern about whether or not they’re properly registered to vote.

The voter can still cast a ballot, but it doesn’t automatically count right away; the county election board reviews the voter’s circumstances the week after the election.

This election cycle, 20 voters went to a polling place that was not theirs, the election board determined, based on the information voters provided on a form with their provisional ballot and statewide voter database searches for their name and address.

For the general election, the county started using electronic poll books. When the voter presented a photo ID, poll workers typed their name into the tablet and that brought up a list of voters with that name. Poll workers could then see if the person was registered to vote in that precinct or was registered somewhere else, or not registered at all.

Election board members could not say, with the information provided to them by poll workers, whether or not the voters who were registered elsewhere in Brown County were told where their correct polling place was, so they could go there and cast a regular ballot.

If voters were not properly registered in the precinct where they went to vote, the election board had to disqualify their provisional ballots. If they would have gone to their correct precincts to vote instead, their ballots would have counted.

“Some people just wanted to vote,” said Brown County Clerk Brenda Woods.

Of those 20 who weren’t at the right precinct, most told poll workers that they had moved and that was the reason why they weren’t listed on the poll book. But most of them listed moving dates that were well before the voter registration deadline of Oct. 11, so what they should have done was re-register in their new precinct, election board members said.

Five of the 31 voters had been canceled in the voter registration system, Woods said. That can happen during voter roll cleanups, after voters haven’t cast a ballot in several elections. It also can happen when a voter is convicted of a felony and doesn’t re-register after being released from jail.

Four other voters did not show identification at the polls, and did not come back to the clerk’s office within 10 days of voting with a photo ID to make their ballots valid.

The election board initially ruled two of the 31 ballots valid, but after opening one of them, found that the poll workers had not signed the back of the ballot. That one was not allowed to count.

If provisional voters are curious about whether or not their ballot was valid or the reasons why it was invalidated, they can contact Woods, she said.

The next time the election board meets, members plan to talk about possibly moving to vote centers instead of the 12 precincts the county has now.

To vote at a vote center — where voters from different precincts can go and get their appropriate ballot instead of having to go to their home precinct — the voter would still have to be properly registered according to their current address. If the voter couldn’t get to their home precinct on the far side of Brown County on Election Day before polls closed, that person could go to the nearest Brown County vote center and still cast a regular ballot.

A statewide study on vote centers posted on the Indiana Election Division’s website says that they can mean significant savings on election costs, especially in counties with a low number of registered voters per precinct.