What is a Special Ballot?

A special ballot, sometimes referred to as a provisional ballot, allows someone who thinks he or she is eligible to vote in the election and in the voting precinct to cast a ballot. If the District of Columbia Board of Elections (BOE) determines that the special ballot voter is registered and eligible to cast a ballot in the District of Columbia, the special ballot will be counted. If the voter is not eligible to vote, the special ballot may be rejected by the BOE.

In most cases you may be able to avoid voting by special ballot if you register in advance of Election Day; verify your voter registration before early voting begins; keep your voter registration name, address and political party current; and, cast your ballot at the precinct assigned to your address. You must be a registered voter in the precinct where you vote on Election Day and eligible to vote in the election to cast a regular ballot.

Voting by special ballot requires that you complete additional paperwork at the polling place and delays having your votes tabulated until after Election Day.


Why might I be required to cast a special ballot?

You may be required to cast a special ballot for any of the following reasons:

  • You are completing a same-day registration application at the early voting center or at the polling place that serves your residence address on Election Day. (Your ballot will be counted if your application is complete and the Board can determine that you are eligible to register and vote in the election.) You must show proof of residence. Acceptable forms of proof of residence include the following:
    • Current and valid District of Columbia DMV-issued ID
    • Government check or paycheck
    • Bank statement
    • Current utility bill or lease
    • Student housing statement
    • Homeless shelter occupancy statement
    • Other official document with your name and current address in the District.
    If you did not bring acceptable documentation to the polling place, you have ten (10) days after the election to provide the documentation to the Board.
  • The pollbook indicates that you must show identification because the DMV-issued number or the last four digits of the social security number you provided on your voter registration application could not be verified and you did not show ID before voting. (You have 10 days after the election to show ID to the Board.) Acceptable types of identification to show at the polling place are listed in the section above.
  • You changed your address and did not notify the Board of your change of address prior to voting at the early voting center or on Election Day.
  • You claim a different political party in the primary other than the one shown on the list of registered voters at the polling place (Your ballot will be counted if the Board has your party affiliation listed incorrectly due to a clerical error).
  • You claim a different single-member district in a general election other than the one listed on the list of registered voters at the polling place. (If the Board's research following the election indicates that you do not reside in the single-member district for which you received a ballot, your vote for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner will not be counted.)
  • The poll book shows that you already received an absentee ballot for this election or you voted early. (If you have not already voted, your special ballot will be counted.)
  • Your right to vote was challenged and approved by the Precinct Captain. (Your special ballot will count if the Board determines that you are the person you say you are and you are eligible to vote in the election.)
  • You voted during extended voting hours. If the court orders that polling places remain open after 8:00 pm, all voters who cast ballots during these extended hours must vote by special ballot. (Your ballot will count if the court decision is upheld.)
  • Your name is not listed on the poll book. You should verify your correct precinct for voting and vote at the precinct serving your current address. This usually happens if you are not registered to vote, if you are registered to vote in a different precinct, or if you moved and did not update your voter registration address. (Your ballot will count if the Board determines that you were registered and eligible to vote in the election. You may want to complete a same-day registration to make sure that your ballot will count.)


How do I vote a special ballot?

The poll worker will give you a special ballot Envelope and ballot to complete.

In order to successfully cast a special ballot, you must:

  • Complete and sign the Voter Affirmation of Eligibility on the special ballot envelope, making sure you have printed clearly;
  • Vote the ballot; and
  • Insert your paper ballot in the secrecy envelope and then place the secrecy envelope into the special ballot envelope and cast it in the Special Ballot Box, as instructed by the election worker.

The election worker is required to complete the Election Worker Certification as follows:
  • Mark the reason for issuing the special ballot;
  • Record your name and address from your proof of residence/ID along with its issuer, if you are required to present documentation;
  • Record the type of ballot that was issued to you; and
  • Sign and date the Election Worker Certification.

The Special Ballot Clerk will provide you with the reason that you are required to cast a special ballot along with your rights to appeal the Board's decision not to count your special ballot.

If you need to provide documentation to have your ballot counted, you have ten (10) days to provide it to the Board. You can find out whether your ballot is being counted beginning seven (7) days after Election Day by calling the Board at (202) 727-2525 or looking up the status of your ballot at www.dcboee.org. If your special ballot is rejected, you can appeal to the Board.


Will my votes be secret?

Yes. Your ballot will remain in the envelope until the Board has reviewed and qualified your special ballot for counting. If qualified, your ballot is separated from the special ballot Envelope so that your ballot is kept secret. If the BOE decides not to count your ballot, your special ballot will remain in the sealed special ballot Envelope for the two-year period required for maintaining election records.


How can I find out if my ballot is counted?

You can look up the status of your special ballot here to find out if your special ballot was counted and, if not, the reason why it was not counted. The information is available beginning seven (7) days after the election and up until 5:00 p.m. on the 10th day following the election. All special ballots of qualified voters are counted ten (10) days after the election.


What are my rights to appeal to have my vote counted?

If the Board decides not to count your special ballot, you may appeal that decision to the Board. You may call the Office of the General Counsel at 202-727-2194 to schedule a hearing.


When are special ballot tallied?

Votes cast by special ballot that are found to be qualified for counting in the election are tabulated at 5:00 p.m., ten (10) days after the election.


Are special ballot counted even if they will not change the outcome of the election?

All qualified votes cast by special ballot are tabulated.

DC Board of Elections
441 4th Street, NW, Suite 250 North
Washington, DC 20001
Tel: (202) 727-2525 | TTY: (202) 639-8916 | Tollfree: 1-866-DC-VOTES
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  • General Election: 11/4/2014
  • Primary Election: 4/1/2014

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