Provisional Ballots

Voters who find that they are not on the list where they believe they are registered to vote, or find that they are listed incorrectly, have the right to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are sealed in an envelope and kept separately from other ballots until the voter's eligibility can be determined. If a provisional voter is determined to be registered, their ballot is unsealed and counted; if the voter is determined to be ineligible to vote, the ballot is destroyed without being examined.

Reasons for Voting Provisionally

Name is not on the List
If you believe you registered to vote, but your name is not on the list, you should first make sure that you are in the correct polling place. If your polling place houses more than one precinct, check with the poll workers to be sure that you are in the correct line. You may find your polling place here.

If you are in the correct precinct and your name is not on the list, ask the poll workers to contact city or town hall to confirm your registration. If you have moved within the same city or town and you are still registered to vote at a previous address, you should vote at the polling place where you appear on the list. State law allows you to vote from a previous address if you have moved within a municipality.

Your local election official may also check to see if you are registered in another city or town. If you have moved from one city or town to another municipality in Massachusetts, state law allows you to vote from your previous address for up to six months, as long as you have not registered to vote elsewhere.

If your registration is unable to be verified at the polling place, you may still cast a provisional ballot. A poll worker will instruct you to complete a provisional ballot affirmation, upon which you may provide details about where and when you registered to vote. You will also be asked to show identification. Please see our page on identification for more information.

Incorrect Party Enrollment
State law prohibits members of political parties from voting in the primary of a different party. If you are voting in a party primary, and you believe that your party enrollment is incorrect as listed, you may cast a provisional ballot for the party in which you believe yourself to be registered. Your local election official will investigate the situation, and if it is determined that you were eligible to vote in the primary in which you cast your ballot, your provisional ballot will be counted.

Unable to Provide Identification
If you are voting in Massachusetts for the first time, you may be required by federal law to provide identification. If this is the case, a notation will appear next to your name on the voters list. More information on acceptable forms of identification may be found here.

If you are unable to provide identification when you go to vote, you may cast a provisional ballot. Your provisional ballot will be counted if you return with identification to the polling place or the office of your local election official by close of polls. If you do not return with identification by the time polls are closed, your provisional ballot cannot be counted.

Counting Provisional Ballots

State law requires that local election officials resolve all provisional ballots within three days of a state or presidential primary and within twelve days of a state or local election. All provisional ballots are investigated and those found to be cast by eligible voters are counted, no matter how close the election may be.

After Election Day, you may contact the Elections Division at 1-800-462-VOTE (8683) to determine the disposition of your ballot.