Skip to: Site menu | Main content

Absentee and Provisional Ballots

Absentee and Provisional Ballots

Absentee voting has become a much more widespread practice recently. Advance votes cast at public polling places account for a substantial percentage of votes in some states. U.S. citizens abroad, both military and civilian, may also vote by absentee ballot. The mailed paper ballot system of absentee voting has often prevented these votes from being counted in a timely way and has sometimes led to uncertainty and controversy over the accuracy of the count.

The VoiceVote system makes absentee voting easier, more timely and more reliable.

Absentee ballots may only be cast in advance on a VoiceVote voting machine in a public polling place in the voter's home state, or on a VoiceVote voting machine in a U.S. embassy or any location with a concentration of voters abroad. In any case, duly authorized election officials control the polling place.

The voting procedure for absentee ballots differs from in-person election-day voting only in the following respects:
  • Each ballot is recorded on a separate write-once medium, which remains in the possession of the voting authority.
  • The ballots, both electronic and paper, are marked as "receipt for absentee ballot."
  • The voting authority's copy of the paper ballot is placed in sealed Envelope A. Envelope A, along with the write-once copy of the ballot, is placed in sealed Envelope B. Envelope B, along with the voter's application for an absentee ballot, is placed in sealed Envelope C. Envelope C is delivered to the voter's local jurisdiction. It is mailed to the local jurisdiction in the case that the polling place is a U.S. embassy or other remote polling place.
  • On election day, the local election officials open Envelope C, examine the application for ballot and determine if the voter is qualified. If the application is approved, the write-once medium is removed from Envelope B and processed through a VoiceVote voting machine. This voting machine produces a new digital signature for the ballot, drops a paper copy of the newly signed ballot directly into the ballot box and writes the newly signed ballot to its write-once record. The absentee ballot then becomes indistinguishable from non-absentee ballots cast on that machine. The original paper ballot in Envelope A remains sealed, to be used only if needed for an audit of the paper trail. If the local voting authority finds the voter unqualified, the unique random identifier is posted to the Internet with the notation "Voter not qualified."  A disqualified ballot is, of course, not tallied.
VoiceVote handles provisional votes in a manner similar to absentee ballots, except that they are processed in accordance with applicable election law.
Previous   Next