General Laws

Section 76C. (a) Whenever a person asserting a right to vote in a primary, caucus, preliminary, or other election appears at the polling place for the precinct in which that person resides, but that person is not permitted to vote, that person shall be allowed to deposit a provisional ballot as provided in this section. A precinct election officer who cannot confirm a potential voter’s eligibility to vote on election day shall notify the individual of the option of appearing before the city or town clerk to dispute eligibility or vote a provisional ballot in that precinct pursuant to the procedures set forth in this section. An election officer who believes that the individual may be eligible instead to vote in a different precinct shall direct the individual to the polling place for that precinct.

(b) To cast a provisional ballot, an individual shall execute a provisional ballot affirmation before a precinct officer at the polling place declaring that the individual is a registered voter in the city or town and resides within the geographical boundaries of the precinct.

(c) A provisional voter shall be requested to present identification when completing a provisional ballot. Failure to present identification shall not prevent the voter from completing a provisional ballot.

(d) A provisional ballot shall be counted if the city or town clerk determines that the individual is eligible to vote in the precinct in the election under the law of the commonwealth. A provisional ballot shall not be counted if the city or town clerk determines that the individual is ineligible to vote in the precinct in the election under the law of the commonwealth. A provisional ballot cast by a person whose name is not on the voting list for the city or town in which they are claiming the right to vote, but whom the city or town clerk determines to be eligible to vote in another precinct of the same city or town, shall be counted in the precinct in which the person cast the provisional ballot for all offices for which the person is eligible to vote.

(e) An individual who votes in an election for federal office as a result of a federal or state court order or any other order extending the time established for closing the polls by a state law in effect 10 days before the date of that election may only vote in that election by casting a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot cast during an extension of the time for closing the polls required by orders described in this subsection shall be separated and held apart from other provisional ballots cast by those not affected by the order.

(f) The city or town clerk shall count all eligible provisional ballots. A provisional ballot cast by an individual whose voter information is verified before 5:00 p.m. on the third day after a presidential or state primary or the twelfth day after a state election shall be removed from its provisional ballot envelope, grouped with other ballots in a manner that allows for the secrecy of the ballot to the greatest extent possible, and counted as any other ballot.

(g) The city or town clerk must determine persons to be entitled to vote a provisional ballot whenever those persons have registered to vote in that city or town in the past and affirm in writing, signed under the penalties of perjury, that they have continuously resided in the city or town, unless the city or town clerk affirmatively establish, by evidence other than failure to respond to the street listing under section 4 of chapter 51, or failure to respond to a notice under section 37 of said chapter 51, that the person has not in fact continuously resided in that city or town.

(h) The city or town clerk shall report the disposition of all provisional ballots to the state secretary on or before the fourth day following a presidential or state primary and on or before the fifteenth day following a state election.

(i) Instructions shall be posted in each precinct on how to cast a provisional ballot. Each polling place shall have instructional sheets, as provided by the state secretary, instructing individuals on the process of casting a provisional ballot and determining whether the ballot was counted and if not, why.

(j) The state secretary shall make a toll-free telephone number available to individuals for the purpose of determining the status of provisional ballots. Provisional voters wishing to determine the disposition of their ballot may call the office of the state secretary 7 days or more after a presidential or state primary and 20 days or more after an election. The state secretary, before providing information to a voter on the disposition of his ballot, shall verify the identity of the voter by name, address, date of birth and provisional voter number. The state secretary shall not discuss the disposition of any provisional ballot with any person other than that provisional voter.

(k) The state secretary shall promulgate regulations to achieve and maintain accuracy, uniformity and security from forgery and fraud in the procedures for casting provisional ballots.