Over 3,300 Georgia voters who showed up at the wrong voting location in November were able to cast provisional ballots and have their votes counted in statewide races, such as for president and the Senate.
But most out-of-precinct votes won’t count in future elections, according to Georgia’s voting law, Senate Bill 202.
The voting law disqualifies ballots cast outside a voter’s home polling place, except if cast after 5 p.m. on election day, when voters might not have time to drive to the correct precinct before polls close. Under previous state law, election officials counted votes for races for which the voter would have been eligible in his or her correct precinct.
Election workers counted 3,357 out-of-precinct provisional ballots in the general election, according to state election data The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act.
Provisional ballots are used when there’s a question about a voter’s eligibility. The most common reasons for using provisional ballots are incorrect precincts, incomplete registrations and signature mismatches on absentee ballots.
In all, 10,521 provisional ballots were accepted and 2,795 were rejected in November’s election. Election officials rejected provisional ballots when voters failed to verify registration information or mismatched signatures.
Lawsuits fighting the voting law say it will disqualify ballots of eligible voters who accidentally go to the wrong precinct because their old voting location closed or the county merged polling places.
Republican legislators who support the law say voters need to report to the voting location where they’re registered so they can vote a full ballot and won’t cause lines elsewhere.
There are now 26 states, including Georgia, that don’t count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct and 20 that do, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four states rarely or never use provisional ballots.
Rejecting provisional ballots could have a disproportionate effect on Democrats. About 63% of provisional ballots were cast for Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 and 2016 general elections in Georgia.
Some provisional ballots can be corrected and then counted. Voters have until three days after election day to verify their registration information or rectify a mismatched signature. There’s not a similar process for voting in the wrong precinct.
Under Georgia’s new law, out-of-precinct voters will have to travel to their assigned precincts on election day — or give up without voting.