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Here’s what you need to know about requesting an absentee ballot

By: - July 6, 2020 2:00 pm

An absentee ballot request form sent out before by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office before Iowa’s June 2 primary election. (Photo by Iowa Secretary of State’s Office)

July 6 is the first day Iowa voters can request an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 general election.

Absentee voting was a subject of controversy in the Iowa Legislature and there are some new laws on the books that may affect absentee voting this fall.

Secretary of State Paul Pate sent out absentee ballot request forms to every active registered vote before the June 2 primary election because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He can’t do that again, however, without permission from the Legislative Council.

The council, which met last week, turned down a Democratic proposal to grant permission for Pate to mail request forms before the general election.

There are still lots of ways to access an absentee ballot request form:

  • Download a form from your county auditor’s website (see a directory here) or the secretary of state’s website. Forms must be mailed or delivered to the county auditor’s office in your county.
  • Some county auditors may do a general mailing of forms to registered voters in their county. Check with your county auditor to see if request forms will be mailed.
  • Campaigns and political parties also may distribute absentee ballot request forms.

The first day auditors can mail out absentee ballots to voters who request one is Oct. 5.

A few tips:

  • Be extra careful in filling out your absentee ballot request form. A new law prohibits county auditors from using their own data to correct errors or fill in missing information on forms. Auditors instead have to contact voters by phone or email.
  • You will need to include your Iowa driver’s license number or non-operator ID number or the four-digit pin number found on your voter registration card.
  • Don’t forget to sign the form.
  • You can track your absentee ballot on the secretary of state’s or county auditor’s website.
  • Once you receive your ballot, read the instructions carefully. You can mail in the completed ballot or hand-deliver it to the auditor’s office. You may not deliver the ballot to the polling place on Election Day, however.
  • Don’t throw the absentee ballot away. If you decide to vote in person, bring the absentee ballot to the polling place. You will have to surrender it in order to vote in person. If you’ve lost your ballot, you will have to vote a provisional ballot.
  • If you make a mistake in marking your ballot, don’t throw it away. Contact your county auditor’s office for help with a spoiled ballot.
  • Here are more answers to frequently asked questions about absentee voting from the secretary of state.

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