Early voting has started in Iowa. Here's what you need to know to vote today in local elections
Early voting is underway for Iowa's city council and school board elections.
Oct. 13 was the first day for in-person early voting and for mail-in voting — 20 days before the Nov. 2 elections.
The elections are the first time Iowans are voting statewide since Republicans in the Iowa Legislature passed sweeping changes to the state's election laws this spring that shortened the early voting period from 29 days to 20 and changed the rules for when absentee ballots must be returned.
Here's what you need to know about the Nov. 2 elections, including how to register and vote early.
Make sure your Iowa voter registration is up to date
You can find out if you're registered to vote on the Iowa secretary of state's website.
If you change your name, address or political party affiliation you will need to update your voter registration.
To register to vote in Iowa, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Be an Iowa resident.
- Be at least 17 years old as long as you will turn 18 on or before Election Day.
- Not be judged mentally incompetent to vote by a court.
- Not claim the right to vote in any other place.
Iowa allows same-day voter registration, meaning you can get registered when you vote early in person or on Election Day if you wish. To do so, you must go to your polling place and be able to prove your identity and residency.
Valid forms of ID include:
- Iowa driver's license
- Iowa non-driver ID card
- Out-of-state driver's license or non-driver ID card
- U.S. passport
- U.S. military or veteran ID
- ID card issued by an employer
- Student ID issued by Iowa high school or college
- Tribal ID
If your ID doesn't contain your current address, you must provide another document that contains your name and address.
Valid proof of residency includes:
- Residential lease
- Utility or cellphone bill
- Bank statement
- Government check or other government document
- Property tax statement
If you are not able to prove your identity with any of those documents, a registered voter in your precinct can attest to who you are. Both you and the attester will need to sign an oath that what you say is true. Falsely attesting or being attested for is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Most Iowans with past felony convictions can vote this year
People with past felony convictions can vote in Iowa if their voting rights have been restored by the governor.
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order last year restoring voting rights to most people with felony convictions once they have completed their sentences, including any parole and probation.
The order does not apply to anyone convicted of homicide offenses, like murder or attempted murder, or some serious sexual abuse crimes. Those people may still apply directly to the governor's office to have their rights restored.
Where can I go to vote early in Iowa?
Iowans can vote early by mail or in-person at their county auditor's office during business hours.
County auditors can also set up satellite voting locations, but only if petitioned by residents. That's a change from previous law, which allowed county auditors to set up satellite voting sites at their discretion.
To look up when and where in-person early voting will be offered in your county, call your county auditor or go to their website.
Iowa also has curbside voting that allows voters to cast their ballot from their car if they are unable to enter the polling place due to a disability. In that case, two precinct election officials will bring a ballot to the voter's car and allow them to fill it out there.
How to get an absentee ballot in Iowa
The deadline to request an absentee ballot to vote by mail has passed, however, voters can still vote absentee by visiting their county auditor's office until the day before Election Day.
If you've already registered, county auditors began mailing absentee ballots Oct 13 to those who requested them.
What's the deadline to request an absentee ballot?
The deadline to request an absentee ballot has passed. Requests had to be received by the county auditor by 5 p.m. on Oct. 18. Voters can still go to their county auditor's office to vote absentee in person until the day before Election Day.
How to track your absentee ballot online
Once a voter has made a request, the Iowa secretary of state's website allows them to track the status of their absentee ballot at sos.iowa.gov/elections/absenteeballotstatus.
To do so, Iowans must enter their full name and date of birth and the website will tell them the status of their absentee ballot. If you believe you have submitted an absentee ballot request form but it isn't showing up through the search, you can contact your county auditor.
Your mail ballot must arrive by the time polls close to count
Iowans voting by mail have a shorter window to make sure their ballots count this year.
As a result of the new election law, all ballots must arrive at the county auditor's office by the time polls close on Election Day in order to be counted.
Previously, ballots placed in the mail the day before Election Day could be counted as long as they arrived by noon the following Monday.
There are two exceptions: votes by military and overseas citizens will be counted as long as their ballots arrive by noon on the Monday following the election. Votes by participants in the Safe at Home program for domestic abuse survivors will also count as long as they arrive by noon the following Monday.
Iowans who request an absentee ballot but do not want to return it through the mail have the option of bringing it to their county auditor's office and hand-delivering it. Some auditors are also allowing voters to deposit their ballots in drop boxes located at the auditor's office. Each county is allowed one drop box, but some may not be taking advantage of the option.
Who can return a voter's absentee ballot?
The new law places restrictions on who can return a voter's completed absentee ballot to the auditor's office.
Only the voter, an immediate family member, household member or caregiver may return the ballot to the auditor's office or place it in the mail.
Previously, anyone the voter designated could deliver the ballot on the voter's behalf, but the new law makes it a serious misdemeanor for any unauthorized person to do so.
There are exceptions for those with blindness or another disability, who can designate a "delivery agent" to return their ballot to their county auditor, according to a fact sheet released by the Iowa State Association of County Auditors.
A delivery agent must be a registered Iowa voter and cannot be a voter's employer, a member of the voter's union or an agent of a political party, candidate or committee. The delivery agent must sign paperwork providing their information and swear to follow the law. They may return only two absentee ballots per election.
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.