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Politics

57 percent of Allegheny's provisional ballots were at least partly valid

| Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004

More than half the provisional ballots cast Nov. 2 in Allegheny County turned out to be at least partly valid, elections director Mark Wolosik said Wednesday.

Of the 8,508 emergency ballots cast, 4,849 -- or 57 percent -- were filled out by voters who were later determined to be registered, Wolosik said as the Allegheny County Elections Board met to certify final election results.

"There were no changes in winners or losers that were reported on election night," Wolosik said.

The November polls were the first general election in which the new federally mandated provisional ballots were used across the country. The ballots were designed to allow voters whose registration status was questioned to cast ballots that could later be checked for validity.

High demand for absentee ballots on Election Day sparked questions about whether registered voters had been left off voting lists or if voters were trying to cast ballots without registering to vote.

Wolosik said he thinks many qualified voters went to the right polling place, but stood in line at the wrong voting district within that polling place. Harried election workers then likely just handed out provisional ballots to save time, Wolosik said.

Of the 4,849 valid provisionals cast, 3,563 were partially counted, a sign that registered voters showed up at the wrong polling place altogether. For instance, their votes for president of the United States would count, but votes on a local referendum would not if they did not vote in their home municipalities.

More than 80 of the county's 1,311 precincts temporarily ran out of provisional ballots on Election Day.

A bipartisan panel is reviewing provisional ballots problems.

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