Monday is the last day to vote early in Iowa. Here's what you need to know.
Monday is the last day to vote absentee in-person in Iowa or to mail their absentee ballot, and residents have been taking advantage of early voting in record numbers this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
If you plan on mailing your absentee ballot, it must be postmarked Monday, Nov. 2 — or delivered in-person to your county auditor's office. Iowans also still have the option of voting in person at their regular polling place on Nov. 3.
Here's what you need to know about the Nov. 3 election, getting registered and voting early:
First, make sure you're registered to vote
You can find out if you're registered to vote on the 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 and vote on Nov. 3 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 ID
- ID card issued by employer
- Student ID issued by Iowa high school or college
- Tribal ID
Any form of ID you provide must have an expiration date. Under an emergency election directive this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowans will be allowed to use forms of identification that expired in 2020.
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
If you are not able to prove your identity with any of those documents, a registered voter in your precinct can attest 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.
More:Register to vote, check your status or request a ballot
What's the deadline to request a ballot?
The deadline to request an absentee ballot was Oct. 24, but voters are still able to go to their county auditor's office on Monday, Nov. 2, to vote absentee in person.
Voters who requested and received an absentee ballot, but have not mailed it in, can take their absentee ballot to their county auditor's office and hand-deliver it.
Return your ballot in time for it to be counted
To be counted, an absentee ballot must be received by the county auditor by the time polls close on Election Day or be postmarked by the day before the election (Nov. 2) and received by the auditor by noon on the Monday following the election (Nov. 9). Election night results are not official until a canvass is conducted the week after the election.
Election officials have encouraged Iowans to return their ballots as soon as they make up their minds about who to vote for.
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 no-contact drop boxes located at county buildings. State and national officials have encouraged voters to use this option, particularly with Election Day approaching.
You can vote early in-person at your county auditor's office or a satellite location
Beginning Oct. 5, county auditors have been offering in-person early voting at the county courthouse or election office. Some auditors have also chosen to set up satellite early voting locations, often at churches or local government buildings like libraries. The schedules and availability of these locations vary by county.
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, one from each of the two major parties, will bring a ballot to the voter's car and allow them to fill it out there.
More:Casting your ballot early? Here's how to find where to vote early in Iowa
When are absentee ballots counted?
County auditors in Iowa can begin counting absentee ballots on Monday. Absentee ballots are counted regardless of whether they affect the outcome of the election.
However, in order for the ballot to be considered for counting, it must be received on time. Ballots must be postmarked the day before Election Day — Monday, Nov. 2. Valid absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day will still be counted as long as they are received by the auditor by noon on Nov. 9.
What happens if you lose your absentee ballot or make a mistake?
If an Iowan requests an absentee ballot but makes a mistake in filling it out, or if they request a ballot but it is lost or damaged, the Secretary of State's Office encourages them to contact their county auditor. Iowa law contains procedures for "spoiling" mailed absentee ballots and obtaining a replacement.
If you requested an absentee ballot but change your mind and decide to vote in person on Election Day, bring your blank absentee ballot with you so poll workers can cancel it and allow you to vote in person.
- Iowa judges and justices are on the ballot this year. Here's how to learn more before you vote.
- Should Iowa hold a constitutional convention? It's on the ballot this year.
Avoid this common error: Failing to sign the outer envelope
The No. 1 error voters make on their absentee ballots is failing to sign the outer affidavit envelope that is used to mail the ballot, said Kevin Hall, a spokesperson for the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Failure to do so will cause the ballot to be rejected.
For absentee ballots received by county auditors by 5 p.m. on Oct. 31, the auditor will review the ballot for completeness and contact the voter within 24 hours if there are any issues, Hall said. If the ballot is unsigned, the voter has until 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, the day before the election, to visit the county auditor's office and sign their ballot. Otherwise, Hall said they should plan to go to their polling place and vote on Election Day.
Voters should follow the instructions for filling out their ballots and mailing them back. That includes fully darkening the box or oval next to their choice of candidate. To vote for a write-in candidate, Iowans must write the person's name on the line provided AND darken the box or oval next to the write-in line.
More:Absentee ballot requests are outpacing 2016 in many Iowa counties. Here's how election offices say they've prepared.
Absentee ballots:How to avoid the most common error voters make when filling them out
More:Here's what you'll find on your Iowa ballot, plus info about the candidates and their stances
Secrecy envelops may actually be sleeves
Iowans should also place their absentee ballot in the included secrecy envelope before putting it in the outer envelope and mailing it to their auditor. However, failing to put an absentee ballot in a secrecy envelope does not by itself mean the ballot won't be counted.
If an absentee ballot is opened and does not have a secrecy envelope, Hall said a bipartisan team on the county's Absentee and Special Voter Precinct Board will place the ballot in a secrecy envelope until tabulation begins.
The Iowa Secretary of State's Office says secrecy envelopes are required for the 2020 election because Iowa's general election ballot is two-sided. But some auditors have not included secrecy envelopes with the absentee ballots mailed to voters because they mistakenly believed they were optional.
Iowa Code 53.8 lays out the rules for how county auditors must mail absentee ballots to voters. It states: "If the ballot cannot be folded so that all of the votes cast on the ballot will be hidden, the commissioner shall also enclose a secrecy envelope with the absentee ballot."
Secrecy sleeves like those used in Polk County this year — which are open on two sides and do not seal — meet the law's requirements.
OCTOBER 2020 IOWA POLL
- Iowa Poll: Republican Joni Ernst pulls ahead of Democrat Theresa Greenfield in closing days of U.S. Senate race
- Iowa Poll: Donald Trump takes over lead in Iowa as Joe Biden fades
- Iowa Poll: Republicans preferred in 3 of 4 U.S. House races; Rep. Finkenauer appears at risk
You can 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.
How many absentee ballots are rejected?
Iowa rejected 0.63% of absentee ballots cast in 2016 (about 4,200 votes) and 1.57% of ballots cast in 2018 (about 5,100 votes), according to reports from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
If you have a felony conviction and have served your sentence, you can vote this year
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order earlier this year allowing most people with felony convictions in Iowa to vote if they have served their sentence, including any probation or parole.
The order does not restore voting rights for Iowans who are still serving a special sentence for a sexual offense or if the crime they were convicted of is a felony homicide under Iowa Code Chapter 707. Felonies outlined in that code section include:
- Attempted murder
- Solicitation to commit murder
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Felony involuntary manslaughter
- Homicide by vehicle
- Nonconsensual termination of a pregnancy
Iowans who don't qualify for automatic restoration of voting rights under the executive order may still fill out a form requesting that the governor restore their voting rights on an individual basis.
More:Gov. Kim Reynolds signs executive order restoring felon voting rights, removing Iowa's last-in-the-nation status
More:Who's eligible to vote in Iowa under Gov. Kim Reynolds' executive order on felon voting rights?
Who's on the ballot, anyway?
Iowans will be voting on candidates for federal, state and local offices this year. They'll also decide whether to retain Iowa judges and Supreme Court justices in office and vote yes or no on a ballot measure. Here's a run-down:
On the front of Iowans' ballots will be races for:
- President and vice president
- U.S. Senate
- U.S. House
- All 100 of Iowa's state representatives and half of the 50 state senators
- County offices like sheriff, county attorney, auditor, treasurer and recorder
- Nonpartisan offices like hospital trustees and county agricultural extension council
On the back of Iowans' two-sided ballots will be four Iowa Supreme Court justices and a number of judges facing retention elections. Judges in Iowa are appointed, not elected, but they face periodic retention elections where Iowans can vote yes or no depending on if they want to see the judge remain in office.
Iowans also will vote on whether Iowa should hold a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the state's constitution — a measure that is required by law to be placed on the ballot every decade.
More:Iowa judges and justices are on the ballot this year. Here's how to learn more before you vote.
More:See the judges and justices facing retention elections in 2020
More:See the state and federal candidates for office in Iowa in 2020
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.
Your subscription makes our journalism possible. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal.