Provisional Ballot Challenges Suggest Racial Discrimination

LINDEN—A review of voting statistics from the February 2008 presidential primary election reveals what appears to be a pattern of racial discrimination.

Obama supporters were twice as likely to be challenged and forced to vote using provisional ballots, which are subject to rejection at the discretion of election officials.


A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there is some question in regards to a given voter’s eligibility.

Almost three out of four (72%) of Linden’s provisional ballots counted in the presidential primary were made to voters in four wards that have sizable minority voting populations.

Those four minority wards accounted for 44 voter challenges, an average of 11 each, compared with just 27 in the remaining six wards, or 4½ on average.

One out of every hundred Obama voters in Linden was challenged, compared with just one-third of one percent of the Hillary Clinton voters.

County election officials said 29 provisional ballots were rejected. No information is available concerning who would have gotten those votes if they were counted.

However, 17 of the rejected ballots were cast in just six districts that gave Obama sizable majorities accounting for about a third of his citywide vote total. Linden has 36 election districts.

More than half the discarded ballots were cast in districts where Obama bested Clinton by a margin of 3-2.

One of the guarantees of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 provides that a voter could cast a provisional ballot if he or she believes that they are entitled to vote.

Whether a provisional ballot is counted depends upon the verification of that voter’s eligibility after the polls closed.

Advocates say provisional ballots provide voters who would otherwise be turned away from the polls an opportunity to have their votes counted.

Douglas W. Jones, a computer scientist at the University of Iowa whose research focuses on voting system integrity, claimed the offer of a provisional ballot can be “a way to brush off troublesome voters by letting them think they have voted.”

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