The purpose of a provisional ballot is to record a vote when lingering questions concerning a voter’s eligibility exist.
The ballot is no different from a regular vote, however it is cast “provisionally,” meaning it’s not counted until election officials can verify the voter’s eligibility. With controversy surrounding this election's voter I.D. laws, activists worried that provisional ballots could be used to suppress votes.
In Arizona, a growing concern is brewing about provisional ballots. As of late Wednesday night, 603,334 early and provisional ballots had yet to be counted. In Maricopa County, where the nation watched Joe Arpaio easily win re-election, 116,000 people voted provisionally, up 15 percent from four years ago. Election officials say all provisional ballots will be processed, as soon as the county recorder finishes counting early ballots. But not all of the votes will be counted.
So what role has provisional ballots played across the Southwest this election?
In San Diego, one of the closest congressional races in the country might hinge on provisional ballots. As of Thursday the San Diego County Registrar of Voters said there was still nearly 375,000 ballots to be counted
“The Registrar also noted that the number could change again in the coming days. Either way, the verification and counting process will be lengthy.”
In Nevada, as of yesterday, county officials had yet to count 31,275 ballots, 2,000 of which are provisional ballots
"It takes time because more than 16,000 of these ballots are mail ballots, plus nearly 2,000 provisional and damaged ballots, all of which must be carefully scrutinized by our ballot team," said Gail Smith, Assistant Registrar of Voters for the county.”
In Texas, as of Wednesday, there were nearly 2,000 provisional ballots left to be counted in Galveston County. These votes could determine local races.