Election Day troubleshooting: Here’s what to do if your absentee ballot is absent, you’re not registered or other voting issues

By: - November 3, 2020 6:00 am

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It’s Election Day, and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Iowa.

As of Monday, more than 1 million voters had requested their absentee ballots, but fewer than 956,000 ballots had been returned. Is it too late for those remaining ballots? What happens if you go to the polls and your name is not on the list? Or you forgot your ID? Or you find out you’re not registered?

Here’s a troubleshooting guide to some common Election Day problems. When in doubt, contact your county auditor for help and don’t give up without voting a provisional ballot.

What to do if you didn’t receive your absentee ballot

If you applied for an absentee ballot online or by mail but haven’t received it, you can check the Secretary of State’s absentee ballot tracker to see if it was mailed to you. If a ballot was mailed but not received, or if your ballot was lost or damaged, contact your county auditor for help. You may need to vote a provisional ballot.

What to do if you haven’t mailed your absentee ballot

If they are returned by mail, absentee ballots must be postmarked by the Monday before Election Day and received by their county auditor’s office no later than noon on the Monday following the Nov. 3 election, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

If you received an absentee ballot but haven’t mailed it back, you can still fill it out and return it in person to your county auditor’s office before the polls close on Election Day. If you decide to vote in person at your precinct polling place, you will need to surrender your absentee ballot and fill out the ballot provided at the polling place. If you have received an absentee ballot and show up to vote in person without it, you will need to fill out a provisional ballot.

What to do if you don’t show up on voter rolls on Election Day

If you arrive at your Iowa polling place and your name is not listed as a registered voter:

Check your polling place location: Ask the poll worker to check on whether you are at the right polling place for your address. If you’re in the wrong place, ask the poll worker to help you find the correct address, call your county auditor’s office or check the Iowa Secretary of State’s online precinct/polling place finder.

Check your registration:  If you are not registered to vote, Iowa has same-day registration. You’ll need your ID and proof of your current address. If you’re registered but you have moved, you’ll need to update your registration with your current address.

Vote a provisional ballot: If problems with your voting qualifications can’t be immediately resolved, you have a right to vote a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot also can be used if your right to vote has been challenged or if you requested an absentee ballot and did not bring it with you to the polls.

Voting a provisional ballot gives you time to provide evidence showing you are eligible to vote. Instructions and the deadline for providing evidence are listed on the provisional ballot envelope.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office: “The absentee and special voters’ precinct board will meet after Election Day to review your registration record and the information you provided. The board will then decide if your ballot can be counted. Before you leave the polls on Election Day, you will be given a written notice explaining your voting rights and listing the date on which the special ballot board will meet so you may be present to observe and present more information to the board.”

What to do if you forget your ID or don’t have an ID to vote

Iowa requires voters to show identification at the polls. The following forms of ID will be accepted:

  • Iowa Voter Identification Card
  • Iowa Driver’s License
  • Iowa Non-Operator ID
  • U.S. Military ID or Veteran ID
  • U.S. Passport
  • Tribal ID Card/Document

If you don’t have any of those forms of ID, you can have another registered voter in the precinct can attest to your identity or you may prove identity and residence using Election Day registration documents. If you don’t have access to those on Election Day, you can vote a provisional ballot and then follow the instructions provided for turning over the needed documentation before the official canvass.

Where voters with disabilities can call for assistance

 The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office has a hotline, 888-SOS-VOTE (888-767-8683) and other resources to assist voters with disabilities.

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