Data "Deep Dive" Examines Provisional Voting Trends Nationwide

Brief Analyzes Impact of Different State Policies on How Many Provisional Ballots Are Issued and Counted

Silver Spring, Md. – The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released a brief today on the rate in which provisional ballots are issued and counted during federal elections, and the impact of different state policies on provisional ballot usage and acceptance. This is the fifth and final in a series of “deep dives” into election administration trends and voting behavior ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The brief analyzes data from the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), the most comprehensive survey on election administration in the United States identifying national, state and local trends.

“States have varying rules on why provisional ballots are issued and which ballots are eligible to be counted. There have been numerous shifts in state policy that will take effect during this year’s midterm election and undoubtedly impact both state and national provisional ballot figures. As the sole source of provisional ballot data nationwide, the EAVS will continue to serve as a valuable tool for examining the impact of those policies and other provisional voting trends,” said EAC Director of Research Sean Greene, who leads the EAVS.

The findings released in today’s brief include: 

  • Rates of provisional ballot use have remained steady since 2006. However, in presidential cycles provisional ballots account for approximately 1.8 percent of all ballots cast, compared with about 1.1 percent of all ballots cast in midterm elections.
  • Four states accounted for most provisional ballots issued in 2016. 75 percent of all provisional ballots issued were issued in Arizona, California, New York, and Ohio. California alone accounted for more than half of all provisional ballots issued nationwide.
  • There are also differences in the rate in which provisional ballots are counted in presidential elections versus midterm elections. Nearly 79 percent of provisional ballots issued were counted in midterm years and approximately 69 percent were counted during presidential years.
  • The most common reason for rejecting a provisional ballot is the voter not being registered in the state, followed by not being in the correct precinct or correct jurisdiction.

The EAC conducts the EAVS to meet its Help America Vote Act of 2002 charge to serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for the compilation of information with respect to the administration of federal elections. Additionally, the EAVS fulfills EAC data collection requirements contained in both the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

For more information about the EAVS Deep Dives or to speak with Greene, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at or 202-897-9285. 

Read the full EAVS Deep Dive on Provisional Ballots.  

Read the previous EAVS Deep Dives on Registering to VoteEarly, Absentee and Mail VotingPoll Workers and Polling Places and Election Technology.

Read the 2016 EAVS REPORT.

Visit the 2016 EAVS WEBPAGE containing state-specific data and other resources.



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The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit



ballot, data, election administration and voting survey  (EAVS), media, provisional voting

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