Final 2016 EAC Deep Dive Looks at Provisional Ballots

[Image via propublica]

Last week, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released the last of its Deep Dive series on 2016 election data – this time looking at provisional ballots. Here’s the release:

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’s Deep Dive series has been a tremendous asset to the field and is a fantastic vehicle both for highlighting the depth and breadth of the EAVS data but also for encouraging practitioners and researchers alike to mine the information for insights into the conduct of elections across the United States. Kudos to everyone involved and I look forward to seeing future versions of these products as the next batch of EAVS data lands after the 2018 election. Stay tuned …

On a personal note, last Friday’s release is bittersweet because it marks the farewell of my longtime friend and colleague Sean Greene, whose last day as the EAC’s research director was last Friday. Sean was one of the first people to sign on with me at electionline.org fifteen years ago, and his passion for conducting and sharing election research – already high then! – has only grown over the years. He and his family are moving to Rome(!) for a fantastic opportunity, where Sean intends to stay active in election work through consulting and, in his words, “enjoy[ing] the hell out of this experience.” I would say we’ll miss him but the reality is the Internet means he won’t be that far away – just a few hours ahead and much better fed. Arrividerci e buon viaggio, Sean!

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