Two important deadlines for Iowa voters coming up on October 27

Iowans planning to vote in the November 6 general election, either on election day or by absentee ballot, should know about two deadlines coming up on Saturday, October 27.

FOR IOWANS PLANNING TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6

All Iowa polling places will be open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm on election day. To find your polling place, use this tool on the Secretary of State’s website.

October 27 is the deadline for voters to pre-register in their precinct. If you have never voted before or have moved since the last time you voted, it’s worth checking to see if you are registered to vote at your current address. You can check online or call your county auditor’s office to confirm you are pre-registered at the correct address.

Being pre-registered increases the chance things will go smoothly at your polling place on November 6. Pre-registered voters can show up at their precinct and vote either by presenting a valid form of ID or by signing an oath verifying their identity. This infographic prepared by the League of Women Voters shows the allowable forms of ID.

Note: if you are pre-registered, your driver’s license or other ID is used only to confirm your identity. The address on that driver’s license does not need to match the address where you are pre-registered.

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

Voters who miss the October 27 pre-registration deadline will need to bring proof of residence as well as an ID in order to vote on November 6, if they have moved since the last election. This slide from a PowerPoint prepared by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office 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.”

FOR IOWANS WHO NEED TO REGISTER TO VOTE

If you have never registered to vote in Iowa before, you have plenty of time to ensure you can participate in the November 6 election. Options:

  • Stop by your county auditor’s election office at any time during regular business hours.
  • Download a voter registration form, fill it out, and mail or hand-deliver to your county auditor by October 27. The form looks like this:
  • If you have an Iowa driver’s license, you can register to vote online through the Iowa Department of Transportation’s website. The Secretary of State’s office produced this video explaining how to register online.
  • Iowans who have not registered before election day can still register to vote at their precinct’s polling place on November 6. Look up your polling place ahead of time here. You will need to bring both ID and proof of residence.

    FOR IOWANS PLANNING TO VOTE BY MAIL

    Iowans who want to vote by mail must submit an absentee ballot request form to their county auditor’s office by 5:00 pm on October 27. The auditor’s office must receive it by the close of business on October 27, so hand-deliver if necessary. Auditors cannot mail ballots to anyone who submits a request after this deadline.

    In-person early voting will continue at county auditors’ offices during regular business hours through Monday, November 5, so if you don’t manage to request an absentee ballot by October 27, you can still cast an early ballot. Elections offices should be open on Saturday, November 3 as well. Some counties have satellite voting locations open the last week of October too; call your county auditor’s office to confirm dates and times in your area. You must vote in the county where you live.

    Voters who have already received absentee ballots in the mail have some time to return them, but it’s best not to leave it too late. Ballots arriving after November 6 can be counted only if they are postmarked on November 5 or earlier. Post offices do not routinely put a postmark on envelopes anymore.

    Make sure you follow all instructions included with your absentee ballot. In particular:

  • Fill in each target completely next to candidates you support; don’t just make an “X” or check mark. A black ink pen is recommended, but ballots marked with pencils or other color ink will be counted.
  • Seal your completed ballot inside the secrecy envelope.
  • Place the secrecy envelop inside the affidavit envelope and remember to sign and seal the affidavit envelope.
  • Do not cross out or erase marks on your ballot. If you make a mistake while filling in your absentee ballot, you can send it back to the county auditor, writing “spoiled ballot” on the return envelope, and request a replacement ballot.
  • If you lose your absentee ballot, contact your county auditor’s office to request a replacement.
  • After mailing your absentee ballot, you can use this tracking feature on the secretary of state’s website to confirm it arrived at the county auditor’s office.

    Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday, November 5. I encourage voters not to procrastinate, because post offices no longer routinely postmark all mail. If your ballot arrives at the county auditor’s office after election day with no postmark proving you mailed it by November 6, your vote will not be counted. Hundreds of ballots have gone uncounted in past Iowa elections for that reason.

    Some people request a ballot by mail and either forget to send it back or decide later they would prefer to vote on election day. You cannot drop off a completed absentee ballot at your regular polling place on November 6. Instead:

  • Hand-deliver your completed absentee ballot to your county auditor’s office between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm on election day, or
  • Surrender your absentee ballot at your regular polling place, then vote with a regular ballot.
  • If you have misplaced your absentee ballot or forget to bring it with you on election day, you will receive a provisional ballot at your polling place. That’s to ensure no one votes twice. As long as you didn’t mail in your absentee ballot, the provisional ballot should be counted.
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