NEW YORK, NY -- December 7 -- Today Demos, a national non-partisan public policy organization, released a report documenting that, on November 2, the right to cast a provisional ballot was violated in election precincts across the county. Key findings in the report, Continuing Failures in Fail-Safe Voting, will be highlighted on December 7 at the "Voting in 2004: A Report to the Nation on America's Election Process" conference in Washington, D.C.|
"Not only were provisional ballots not the magic bullet in this year's elections," says Steven Carbo, Director of Demos' Democracy Program, " but narrow policies and ineffective implementation meant that many would-be voters were prevented from receiving a provisional ballot, or having that ballot counted."
Election Protection, a national collaborative formed to safeguard the right to vote, staffed a toll-free telephone hotline for voters to report election problems in the period leading up to and including Election Day. After fielding hundreds of thousand of problem reports on Election Day, more than 37,000 incidents have been entered into their Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS), of which 1900 were related to provisional ballots. The findings in this report are drawn from analysis of 744 actual provisional balloting problems experienced by voters in the recent election.
Key findings of Continuing Failures in Fail-Safe Voting include:
- Half of the problems reported involved eligible voters being denied the right to cast a ballot.
- Twenty percent of reports involved voters being offered provisional ballots when they were entitled to vote using a regular ballot.
- Twenty percent of the cases derived from a botched voter list created before Election Day -- in other words, from a previous error in elections administration.
- Only 3 percent of voters were required to cast a provisional ballot because of their own mistakes.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) mandated provisional balloting as a "fail-safe" remedy for eligible voters who show up at the polls and find that their names are not on the voter rolls. Instead of being sent home empty handed, these and other voters would be offered a provisional ballot. However, the law was poorly and unevenly implemented by many election administrators, and left voting procedures open to partisan manipulation.
Concerns about provisional balloting were already clear before Election Day. In its October 2004 study Placebo Ballots: Will Fail-Safe' Voting Fail?, Demos reported that over half of the states would not count provisional ballots cast by voters at the wrong precincts. Other states determined that provisional balloting would not allow voters who could not provide ID at the polls to have their vote counted.
"Many of the problems predicted for provisional ballots came true on Election Day," says Carbo. "Our analysis of the incidents illustrates a stark reality that for many voters, HAVA's fail-safe' voting provision failed."
Demos has expert spokespeople available for briefings, interviews and media appearances. They include, among others: Steven Carbo, Director, Democracy Program; Sarah Tobias, Senior Policy Analyst; and Ari Weisbard, Analyst.
Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action is a national, nonpartisan public policy organization based in New York.
Demos and its Democracy Program have been at the center of national election reform activity since the 2000 election controversy. Over the last four years, Demos has issued a number of groundbreaking reports on long-standing obstacles to voter participation and has engaged in on-the-ground and policy-level efforts to increase voter registration nationwide.
To view the full report, visit us online at www.demos-usa.org, or call (212) 389-1407 to book an interview.