What to bring with you to vote in the Iowa primary

Polls will be open open for Iowa’s primary elections from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm on Tuesday, June 5. Iowans can vote early in person at county auditors’ offices today, June 4, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Here’s what you should bring with you to ensure you are able to cast a ballot.


If you haven’t moved since the last time you voted, or if you changed your voter registration to your new address before the pre-registration deadline on May 25, you can show up at your precinct and vote either by presenting a valid form of ID or by signing an oath verifying your identity. The oath will be an option only for 2018 elections. Starting January 2019, ID will be required for all Iowa voters.

You can check online or call your county auditor’s office ahead of time to confirm you are pre-registered at the correct address. You can find your polling place here.

This slide from a “Voter Ready” PowerPoint prepared by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office shows documents that can provide proof of residence: Iowa driver’s license, Iowa non-operator’s ID, U.S. passport, military ID, veterans ID, or the new Iowa voter identification card (which does not have a photo).

If you have valid ID, please bring it and present it when asked. We know, the law is a flagrant Republican act of voter suppression. But Iowa City-based blogger and Johnson County election worker John Deeth put it well last year:

Please, please, PLEASE people: Don’t take out your frustration with the law on the poor poll workers or on me. We can handle it but we can’t do anything about it, and you’re making the people behind you in line wait longer. Save your anger for the legislators who passed this; voting is the best revenge.

You may have all the time in the world to take a stand and demonstratively refuse to show your ID. But the people behind you may need to get to work or someplace else important. Unnecessary delays could prevent them from casting a ballot.

Staff from the Secretary of State’s office have assured me that for Iowans who are pre-registered, a driver’s license or other valid ID is used only to confirm identity. The address on that driver’s license does not need to match the address where the voter is already on the rolls.

In addition, if a voter’s name has changed because of a marriage or divorce, the surname on the driver’s license does not need to match the name under which that voter is pre-registered.

I want to hear from anyone who has trouble voting on Tuesday because a poll worker didn’t understand this aspect of the law. Olivia Habinck has twice had problems because the address on her driver’s license (her parents’ residence in her home town) does not match the address where she now lives and is pre-registered. Please call the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter protection hotline at 833-336-8683 if you experience anything similar. Then get in touch with me later to tell your story.


If you have moved since the last time you voted and didn’t change your voter registration by May 25, you will need to bring proof of residence as well as an ID in order to vote on June 5. This “Voter Ready” slide lists documents that can provide proof of residence:

Under a law passed during this year’s legislative session, voters can provide proof of residence documents “in an electronic format, such as on a cell phone.”


If you’ve never voted before or never been registered in Iowa, you can register at your polling place on June 5 or immediately before voting at the county auditor’s office on June 4. You will need to bring both valid ID and proof of residence.


If you requested an absentee ballot and haven’t mailed it back yet, don’t just drop it in a mailbox today. It needs to be postmarked no later than June 4, and post offices don’t routinely affix postmarks anymore. If your ballot arrives at your county auditor’s office after election day with no postmark, your vote will not be counted.

Here are three options for making sure your vote will count:

1. Fill out your absentee ballot on June 4, take it to a post office and ask them to put a postmark on the envelope. If you choose this path, make sure you have followed all instructions correctly. If you make a mistake, like erasing a mark and filling in another oval, or forgetting to seal your ballot inside the secrecy envelope, or forgetting to sign and seal the affidavit envelope, your vote will not be counted.

2. Hand-deliver your absentee ballot to your county auditor’s office on either on June 4 before 5:00 pm or on June 5 before 9:00 pm. An elections worker may double-check that you have properly signed the affidavit envelope and sealed the ballot inside the secrecy envelope.

3. Surrender your unmarked absentee ballot at your polling place on June 5 between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm. A poll worker will give you a regular ballot. You cannot turn in a completed absentee ballot at a regular polling place. You need to exchange it for a regular ballot that you will fill out just like every other election-day voter.

If you show up at your polling place without proof you haven’t returned your absentee ballot, the poll worker will give you a provisional ballot, not a regular ballot.

Remember: anyone who has problems casting a ballot on Tuesday can call the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter protection hotline at 833-336-8683.

UPDATE: Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald told Bleeding Heartland on June 4 that precinct chairs have received more training for this election than at any other time he’s been in office (since 2007). “Chairs were required to attend three different classes going over all aspects of the election. We covered our poster – which will be in the polling places – in depth.” Here is the poster:

Fitzgerald explained,

The green side (along with the yellow absentee portion) are for those voters pre-registered by May 25, 2018. Voters pre-registered have an option of not showing identification and signing an oath of identity during 2018.

The red side are for those not in the election register. These voters will vote provisionally as we are required to run each voter through the felon database. Each provisional voter will get a receipt that will explain what needs to be done (if anything) prior to Thursday June 7th at noon.

This “playbook” describes in further detail the scenarios from the poster. The Polk County Auditor’s office has also prepared a handout for voters and a script for poll workers. Links to Polk County poll worker training videos are available here.

Some citizens in Iowa’s largest county received inaccurate information at the polls when trying to cast a ballot in the March referendum on a local option sales tax. Here’s hoping the beefed-up training will eliminate such glitches on June 5. Fitzgerald told me voters can “call our office if they have any difficulty, concerns or questions. We will be unable to follow social media (Facebook, twitter) in a timely manner and want to make sure that voters are contacted promptly. Our phone number is: 515-286-3247.”

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