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Provisional Ballots Help Ensure Voters’ Rights. Even Trump Used One.

There's a potential lesson in Donald Trump's 2004 voting experience: Even if poll workers don't have your name on their list, you may still have an opportunity to vote. Trump did it, after all.

The Republican presidential nominee appears to have voted by provisional ballot in the 2004 general election, according to an "Access Hollywood" video with Billy Bush (not the one that featured him boasting about groping women).

The video shows Trump visiting at least two voting locations in New York City and being told his name wasn't on the list of registered voters at either polling place. When that happens, voters in most states can record their vote via a provisional ballot that is counted after Election Day — assuming they are found to be eligible to vote. Provisional ballots and rejection rates are one of the ways that election experts try to measure how elections are run. Jurisdictions have differing guidelines about when provisional ballots should be used. Some, for example, offer them to voters who show up at the wrong polling place.

We don't know what the specific issue was in Trump's case in 2004. But voter data from New York State does indicate that Trump voted in that election. That means his vote, cast provisionally, was counted.

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Portrait of Derek Willis

Derek Willis

Derek Willis is a news applications developer at ProPublica, focusing on politics and elections.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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