Early voting starts today in Iowa. I recommend voting before election day, so you don’t have to worry about an illness, work obligation, or family emergency preventing you from voting on November 8.
Before you set out for an early voting location, make sure you have all the documentation you will need.
IF YOU’RE NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE
Iowa has same-day registration, so eligible voters can register and cast a ballot on the same day. Bring proof of your identity and current residence.
Proof of ID can include “a photo ID that is current, valid, and contains an expiration date,” such as a driver’s license or non-operator ID, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military or veteran ID, an ID card from your employer, a student ID from an Iowa high school or college, or a tribal ID card.
If your current address doesn’t match what’s on your driver’s license or non-operator ID, you will need to bring some other documentation (on paper or electronic) to confirm your address. Examples include a utility bill, bank statement, pay stub, rental lease agreement, or property tax statement.
Iowa law allows someone who lives in your precinct to sign an oath attesting to your identity, but it’s less hassle to bring the documents.
If you have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, you can also register to vote online a few days before you plan to vote early. You will need to provide the Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID number, as well as the last five digits (not four digits) of your Social Security number.
VOTING EARLY IN PERSON
All 99 county auditor’s offices are open weekdays during business hours from now through Monday, November 7. (Johnson County’s auditor offers drive-through voting as well.)
Some counties have satellite voting locations, which may be more convenient than the county elections office. For instance, the LongLines Family Rec Center in Sioux City is open for Woodbury County residents throughout the early voting period. Check your county auditor’s website, or call their office for more information about dates and times for early voting locations.
You will need to bring some form of voter ID to cast an early ballot. You will also need to provide a voter verification number, which is either your driver’s license or non-operator ID number, or a four-digit PIN on your voter ID card.
If you don’t have either of these, request a voter ID card at your county auditor’s office to get the PIN.
To receive a ballot an an in-person early voting location, you will have to show one of the following types of ID:
- Iowa Driver’s License (not expired more than 90 days)
- Iowa Non-Operator ID (not expired more than 90 days)
- U.S. Passport (not expired)
- U.S. Military ID or Veteran ID (not expired)
- Iowa Voter Identification Card (must be signed)
- Tribal ID Card/Document (must be signed, with photo, not expired)
In my experience, it takes about ten to 15 minutes to fill out a form requesting an absentee ballot, fill out the ballot, and turn it in. If you need to register to vote as well, that may add some time to the process.
It’s worth checking out a sample ballot before you vote early, so you can learn more about candidates for all the races in your area, including county-level offices or judges up for retention. Unlike some states, Iowa does not mail voter education guides to all registered voters.
Most county auditors in Iowa have sample ballots online. You can enter your address to see the ballot for the correct precinct.
VOTING BY MAIL
While early voting in person is the lowest-risk option, it’s not too late to vote by mail in Iowa. Your county auditor must receive your absentee ballot request form by 5:00 pm on Monday, October 24.
If you have access to the internet and a printer, you can download an absentee ballot request form from the Iowa Secretary of State’s website right now. Fill it out and sign it, then mail or hand-deliver it to your county elections office. (Iowa law does not allow absentee ballot request forms to be submitted electronically.)
Hundreds of Iowans submitted absentee ballot request forms too late to receive a mailed ballot for the June primary. So it’s worth checking to make sure your county auditor received your absentee ballot request form. The Iowa Secretary of State’s office has a website page where voters can check the status of their absentee ballot.
Once you receive your absentee ballot, fill it out quickly and mail it back to your county auditor, or hand-deliver the ballot. Iowa Republicans changed the rules on early voting last year, so absentee ballots must arrive in the county auditor’s office by 8:00 pm on Tuesday, November 8. With a few exceptions (military and overseas voters, or those in the Safe At Home program), late-arriving ballots will not be counted, even if postmarked prior to the election.
Hand-delivering a completed ballot to the county auditor eliminates concerns about slow mail delivery. But be aware: under the law Republicans enacted in 2021, only the voter, someone living in the same household, or an immediate family member to the fourth degree of consanguinity can collect and return a completed absentee ballot for most Iowans. (Blind or physically disabled voters can designate someone else to return their ballot.) The restrictions on delivering ballots are being challenged in court but remain in effect.
If you will be in the state of Iowa at any time between now and November 8, I would encourage you to make time to vote early in person, so you don’t have to worry about the mail.
UPDATE: The ACLU of Iowa has compiled a Q&A document to help Iowans with felony convictions understand whether they can vote, and how to cast a ballot.
Top image: State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott casts her ballot in Dallas County on October 19. Photo posted on Trone Garriott’s Twitter feed.