The Kansas Secretary of State’s office issued a sharp rebuke to Stephanie Sharp, a former Kansas legislator on Twitter last week. On Thursday, Sharp tweeted, “If you requested a mail ballot, please vote & send or drop it off. PLEASE don’t show up on Election Day. Provisional ballots are only counted if the race is VERY close.”
The tweet was removed for violating Twitter rules, but not before the Kansas Director of Elections, Bryan Caskey, issued a terse response.
“This is NOT correct. Provisional ballots are counted in every election, every single time,” he tweeted. “County Board of Canvassers review every provisional ballot after election and make a determination on the validity and count them if they are valid. Please do not share misinformation.”
Sharp currently runs a subscription and candidate research service and is well-known among moderate and liberal candidates. Via Twitter, Sharp responded to Caskey that in her experience, the way Kansas’s 105 counties count provisionals varies widely.
Election officials worry that misinformation could depress voter turnout.
“Our elections team noticed the incorrect tweet and replied directly through the elections director to correct the record,” said Katie Koupal, spokesperson for Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab. “Provisional ballots are counted in every election. County Boards of Canvassers review each provisional ballot to determine its validity. If found valid, the provisional ballot will be counted.”
No one is turned away from polls on Election Day in Kansas, though they may cast a provisional ballot if there is doubt about their eligibility to vote. Provisional ballots are placed in sealed envelopes, and the reason for the provisional ballot is written on the outside of the envelope and signed by two election workers.
For instance, if someone requested a mail-in ballot and then showed up at the polls to vote, he would be issued a provisional ballot. Assuming the mail-in ballot was never received, the provisional ballot would be counted.
The Board of County Canvassers–the county commission typically serves as the board of canvassers– examines the reason for the provisional balloting. If the person didn’t return a mail-in ballot, the provisional one would be counted.
The canvassing board meets several days after the election to discard provisional ballots from ineligible voters and to count the provisional ballots deemed eligible. The eligible provisional ballots are counted before the election results are certified, regardless of whether the ballots make a difference in the electoral outcome.