A Carroll County voter submits a ballot to an electronic tallying machine. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Iowa voters will head to the polls on Nov. 8 to cast their ballots for state and federal offices, judicial retention and a constitutional amendment.
There have been multiple changes to Iowa’s voting rules since the last general election. Polls close an hour earlier on Election Day than in past general elections and voters have less time to return absentee ballots.
Here’s what you need to know to cast your ballot:
To register to vote in Iowa, a person must be:
- An Iowa resident.
- A U.S. citizen.
- 18 years old by Election Day.
A voter cannot:
- Be a convicted felon, unless their voting rights have been restored.
- Be judged mentally incompetent to vote by a court.
- Claim the right to vote in any other place.
Iowans who are not yet registered to vote can register when they go to the polls on Election Day. Registration requires proof of ID and proof of residence. If an Iowan does not have these documents, another registered voter from the same precinct can attest for the person registering.
Iowans can check their voter registration status on the Iowa secretary of state’s website.
Voter identification requirements
Since 2017, Iowa has required voters to show identification in order to cast their ballot in early voting and on Election Day. There are multiple forms of identification Iowans can bring with them to verify their identity, including:
- Iowa driver’s license
- Iowa non-operator ID
- Out-of-state driver’s license or non-operator ID
- U.S. passport
- U.S. military or veteran ID
- ID card issued by employer
- Student ID issued by Iowa high school or college
- Tribal ID card/document
Registered voters still must bring a form of ID to their polling location to participate. If a person does not have any of these forms of ID, they can still cast a ballot on Election Day by having another registered voter in the precinct attest for their identity. They can also bring Election Day registration documents to confirm their identity.
If a person can’t find the necessary ID or an attester, the voter can cast a provisional ballot. People who cast provisional ballots can return with a form of identification to have their vote counted up until the time of county canvass of votes, which is the Monday after the election, Nov. 14.
Sending in your ballot
Voters have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to return their absentee ballot to their county auditor’s office. Find the location of your local county auditor’s office here. That deadline is when absentee ballots must arrive at the county auditor’s office in order to count. Voters are not advised to mail an absentee ballot on Election Day. The cutoff is another piece of the new law, changing Iowa’s previous practice allowing votes to count as long as they arrived before noon on the Monday following the election.
There are also new rules on who is allowed to return a voter’s completed ballot. Ballots can be returned by mail or in person, or deposited in their county’s ballot drop box. But only the voter, a housemate or immediate family member or caregiver can send in a ballot by mail or deliver it directly to the county auditor’s office. People with disabilities can designate someone else to return their ballot for them, but must follow instructions included with their mailed ballot.
Iowans can check the status of their absentee ballot on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.
Did you request an absentee ballot, but plan to vote in person?
Voters who requested and received an absentee ballot but did not return it before Election Day have two options. They can return the completed absentee ballot to their local county auditor’s office by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Keep in mind: Voted absentee ballots cannot be returned to a polling location on Election Day.
Voters also still have the option to vote at a polling location on Election Day, provided they have not already voted absentee. A voter can surrender their absentee ballot at the polls and vote via a regular ballot on Election Day. If the person can’t surrender their absentee ballot, such as in cases where they have misplaced the absentee ballot, they can cast a provisional ballot at the polling site.
Voting on Election Day
Those planning to cast their ballot on Election Day should know that voting locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. Polls close an hour earlier than in the previous general election because of new laws.
Polling places are determined by a person’s home address, and recent redistricting may have changed some Iowan’s precincts. Find your polling location on the secretary of state’s website.
Accessibility at voting locations
Assistance is available for people with disabilities at voting locations. Inside each polling location, voters can ask for assistance in reading and marking a ballot. Two precinct election officials, one from each political party, may assist a person with their ballot, but a voter is allowed to request others help them as well, barring their employer, employer’s agent or an agent of their union. If someone other than a precinct election official provides assistance, that helper must sign the Affidavit of Voter Requesting Assistance.
Additionally, each location has a voter assist terminal, machines with have touch screen, audio component, and sip and puff elements, which can be used to select candidates. The device marks a voter’s ballot according to their selections, and is available to any voter.
If someone isn’t able to physically enter their polling location to vote because of a disability, precinct election officials from each party will take a ballot and election supplies out to a person’s vehicle, where they can fill out their ballot. People who are unable to leave their vehicle to vote must sign the Affidavit of Voter Requesting Assistance.
No advance notice is necessary for curbside voting, but the Iowa Secretary of State’s office recommends people who plan to vote in their cars to call ahead to their local county auditor’s office, or to bring another person with them so officials can assist them quickly.
Who’s on the ballot?
There are two federal races and six statewide races on Iowa ballots in the midterms, in addition to state legislative, county and judicial elections. Learn more about the candidates in the state’s major races here.
There’s also a state constitutional amendment Iowa voters will weigh in on: the “Keep and Bear Arms Amendment.” The proposed amendment would hold laws restricting the right to firearms to strict scrutiny, a higher legal standard. Any laws passed to restrict the sale, use and possession of firearms would need to fit a “compelling governmental interest” or be struck down.
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