California state election law allows voters to request and vote a provisional ballot at a poll on election day if their name and address do not appear on the roster of registered voters at that poll, or if their name and address are marked as a voter who was sent a vote-by-mail ballot.
What are provisional ballots?
Provisional ballots are special ballots that are cast at the poll on election day, but like vote-by-mail ballots, are placed in a sealed envelope with the voter’s name, address or other information, and signature on it. Each provisional ballot is placed in an envelope to keep it identified and segregated from all the other ballots cast on election day, to allow it to be verified that the person who voted the provisional ballot is:
- A registered voter in the election district;
- Is the registered voter in whose name they voted; and
- Did not also vote and send in a vote-by-mail ballot which would be a duplicate ballot.
Provisional ballots and vote-by-mail ballots are verified in the same way. The signature on the envelope of a provisional or vote-by-mail ballot is compared with the signature on the voter registration card. And it is also verified that the voter did not vote both a provisional ballot and a vote-by-mail ballot.
After the provisional ballot is verified, it is removed and separated from the envelope to maintain the privacy of how the voter voted, and it is counted towards the final election vote totals. In some jurisdictions, uncounted provisional ballots and vote-by-mail ballots may not be counted if they are insufficient in number to change the election results, i.e., which candidates and ballot measures won or lost. The reason cited is to save money. However, every vote should be counted, even if it won’t change the election outcome, both as a matter of principle, and for the practical matter of knowing by how many votes a candidate or ballot measure won or lost.
Why are provisional ballots useful?
Provisional ballots allow registered voters to vote at their assigned poll even if their name does not appear on the roster of registered voters, or at another poll if they don’t know their assigned poll or cannot make it there before the polls close. Provisional ballots also allow registered voters to vote at a poll on election day if they lost, did not receive, or do not have access to their vote-by-mail ballot.
Who should use a provisional ballot?
Any registered voter who shows up at their assigned poll and is told they are not on the roster of registered voters should request and vote a provisional ballot. Alternatively, if time permits before the polls close, such voters can find out if they were assigned to a different poll and go there to vote.
Any registered voter who cannot vote at their assigned poll and goes to another poll in the same election district to vote.
Registered voters who requested a vote-by-mail ballot, or who are on the permanent vote-by-mail list, and who did not receive their vote-by-mail ballot, or who lost it or do not have access to it, should go to the poll for their residential address, or another poll in the same election district, and request and vote a provisional ballot.
If you do not know your polling place, go to the official website for the city clerk or county clerk for your address, or call the information phone number for the city clerk or county clerk.
Note that the entire City of El Segundo is within the same election district.