Many eyes are on provisional ballots


Many poll workers and election observers are keeping an eye on provisional ballots as voting progresses today.

The ballots are intended to make sure that everyone gets a chance to vote, even if they don’t show up on voter lists as they should. But the ballots can be more trouble than they’re worth, since voters must prove they’re registered in the precinct in which they voted, which usually requires going to city or county election officials later in the week.

“It’s a lot of extra work for the voters and then there’s a danger it won’t be counted at all,” says Melody Drummond Hansen, an attorney who volunteered to watch several Uptown polling places this morning for the nonpartisan group Lawyers Committee for Civil Right Under Law.

Election workers at several polls said they were seeing fewer problems with voters not showing up on the correct lists and fewer people having to vote on provisional ballots.

But at Edgewater Presbyterian Church on West Bryn Mawr Avenue, a busy polling station for three precincts, poll worker James Batek says by noon, they had issued as many as 20 provisional ballots to voters, among several hundred who voted on normal ballots.

“(There were) all sorts of irregularities,” he says. “They just weren’t able to find the right place to vote, so we let them vote here. But we try not to do that.”

Stories like that worry observers like Drummond Hansen.

“The way that they sort it out is they’re supposed to call the board (of elections) or the county office and verify that person is a registered voter in that precinct, and then they get a regular ballot,” she says. But that can be time-consuming and some voters she saw at various polling stations were getting provisional ballots instead of regular ones.

At least anecdotally, poll workers and observers agree that this time around, compared to the 2000 and 2004 general elections, there have been fewer problems at the polls with voter lists and equipment.

“There are any number of ways that voters are not informed about the way to assert their voting rights, so that’s troubling,” Drummond Hansen says. “But on the other hand, what I did see was, like a said, judges working very hard to make sure every person got to vote.”