Frequently Asked Questions
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Can an independent vote in a primary election?
Yes and No. In Iowa, you must be a member of a political party (in 2020: Republican and Democrat) to vote in a primary election. However, anyone* can change parties on Election Day and vote. For independents to vote they must declare a political party.
*Precinct election officials may not change political parties within 30 days of an election.
Can I get a new ballot if I make a mistake or lose my ballot?
Yes. If you make a mistake on an absentee ballot mark your return envelope “Spoiled” and return it to the Auditor’s office either by mail or in person. If you return it by mail contact the Auditor’s office to be sent a new one.
On Election Day if you make a mistake on your ballot, return it to the poll worker to receive a new one. You are allowed up to three ballots so don’t make too many mistakes!
Can I vote for someone that is not on the ballot?
Yes. For each race on the ballot, a line is provided for you to write-in the name of someone for whom you wish to vote for. Make sure you color in the oval!
Do I have to vote for everything on the ballot?
No. You can vote for as much or as little as you would like; it’s all up to you!
If I change my mind on who I want to vote for after I have returned my ballot, can I get a new one?
No. If you have already returned your absentee ballot to the Auditor’s office you may not request a new ballot if you have changed your mind on who you wish to vote for.
If I chose a party do I have to vote for all of their candidates?
It depends on the election. In primary elections, you can only vote for candidates from the party to which you belong. In general elections, you are free to vote for anyone you like, regardless of their party affiliation.
What if I don't have an ID?
Registered voters who do not have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator’s ID were issued a voter ID card. Voter ID cards must be signed before going to the polls. The new voter ID card will contain a PIN number that will be used for voting purposes. If you should have a voter ID card and do not, please contact our office to have one sent to you.
What is Voter ID?
Starting in 2019, voters must provide an ID when going to vote. Voters who do not have ID will be allowed to either cast a provisional ballot or have another registered voter attest to their identification. Learn more about provisional ballots and attesting on our Voter ID page.
There are 6 approved types of identification that may be used:
- an Iowa Driver’s License or Non-Operator ID
- a Voter ID issued by the Secretary of State or the Auditor’s Office
- a current US Passport
- a US Military ID
- a US Veteran’s ID
- a Tribal ID
Where do I vote?
Where you vote is determined by where you live and you must vote in the precinct to which you are assigned for your ballot to be counted. To find your polling place please visit the Polling Places page on our website.
Can a homeless person register to vote?
Yes. Any eligible voter in Iowa may register to vote. Because many of those who are homeless have a nontraditional address they just need to provide an address or description of where they sleep the most, wherever that may be.
Can I update my voter registration over the phone?
No. All updates to voter registration must be made in writing or online through the Iowa DOT if you have an Iowa driver’s license.
Can someone with a previous felony conviction vote?
Those with a prior felony conviction are only permitted to vote if their voting rights have been restored by the Governor, including through Executive Order. For more information about restoration of rights, contact the Governor’s office or visit the voter registration page on our website.
Do I have to register to vote for every election?
No. You would only need to re-register if your information has changed and you need to update it.
How do I update my address?
If you have moved recently and need to update your address for voting, all you have to do is fill out a new voter registration form and submit it to the Auditor’s office. If you do not update your address after a move through a new voter registration form and do not vote in the next general election, you will be marked inactive (inactive voters may still vote with proper ID). Registration will be canceled if two more general elections pass with no voter activity.
I just registered and received a card in the mail but there is a mistake on it; what do I do now?
If you notice a mistake on your voter card please contact the Auditor’s Office and/or submit a new registration form to correct your information.
I registered as an independent; why does my card say "NP" or "No Party"?
Iowa does not recognize an “independent” party. Instead, “No Party” is used to indicate a lack of affiliation with a political party.
Can I pick up or request a ballot for someone else?
No. In Iowa you can only request an absentee ballot for yourself.
Can I request an absentee ballot by email or fax?
Yes. You may request an absentee ballot via email or fax and a ballot will be mailed to you. However, in order for your ballot to be counted you must also mail in or drop off the original paper ballot request.
Can I use power of attorney to request a ballot for my spouse, child or parent?
No. Under Iowa law, power of attorney does not apply for all election related matters.
Can someone else return my absentee ballot for me?
The only people who may return a ballot for a voter are:
- someone living in the voter’s household
- an immediate family member
- a special precinct election official delivering a ballot for health care residents
- a delivery agent, in the case of a voter unable to return a ballot due to blindness or other disability
Do absentee ballots even get counted?
Yes. There is a myth that absentee ballots only get counted if the election is close, however, this is not true. Under Iowa law, every ballot must be counted.
Do I need to sign the return envelope of my absentee ballot?
Yes! Your absentee ballot cannot be counted unless you have signed the affidavit envelope that you return your ballot in. If we receive a ballot back that has not been signed we will attempt to contact you to get this fixed. Once contacted, you may decide to either:
- Request a replacement ballot and return it by 8:00 p.m. on election day
- Vote at the polls on election day
- Sign the affidavit in person at the county auditor’s office by 8:00 p.m. on election day
What is the last day I can turn in my absentee ballot?
You are allowed to hand deliver your ballot to the Auditor’s office up until the time the polls close on Election Day. If you return your ballot through the mail, your ballot must arrive by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, with exceptions for individuals in the Safe at Home program and military/overseas citizens. Learn more on our Absentee Voting page.
Can I get help marking my ballot?
Yes. If you need assistance filling out your ballot ask a poll worker for help. A team of one republican and one democrat will come over and help you mark your ballot. Also available in each polling location is a ballot marking device that will read you all of the choices and then print out your marked ballot.
Can I register to vote on Election Day?
Yes. Iowa law allows for Election Day registration if you are able to provide proof of identification (i.e. valid photo ID) and proof of residency (i.e. utility bill with your name on it if your ID has an outdated address on it). If you are unable to provide one or both of these you are allowed to bring someone with you to attest that you have the right to vote.
Can I take my absentee ballot to the polls on Election Day and vote there?
Yes. If you have not returned your absentee ballot you may go to your polling place on Election Day and vote a regular ballot.
Do I need to show ID to vote?
Beginning January 1, 2019, Iowa voters will be required to show a driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, passport, military ID, veterans ID, Tribal ID or Voter ID Card at the polls before they vote. Voters, starting in 2019, without an ID may cast a provisional ballot or have another registered voter attest to their identity.
I am already registered but my information needs updated; can I do that on Election Day?
Yes. While it is recommended that you update your information prior to Election Day to speed things up at the polls, you may wait and do so on Election Day. If you are updating your address just make sure you are going to the polling place for your new address. When updating your address you will now need to provide proof of identity and proof of residency.
I can't get out of my car; can someone bring me a ballot to vote from there?
Yes. If you are unable to go inside the polling place a team of election workers will be sent out to your car to help you vote.
I lost my absentee ballot; can I just go vote on Election Day?
Yes. When you go to vote, a poll worker will verify with the auditor’s office that your absentee ballot has not been returned. If it is confirmed that the auditor’s office has not received a ballot from you then you will be given a new ballot to vote there.
What do I need to bring with me to vote?
Starting in January of 2019 you will be required to show identification. If you need to register to vote on Election Day, you must bring proof of identification and proof of residency.
What if I lost my ID or forgot to take one with me to the polls?
Starting in 2019, if you do not have your ID with you, you may either cast a provisional ballot or have another registered voter attest to your identity. Learn more about provisional ballots and attesting on our Voter ID page.
What if I'm still waiting in line when the polls close?
So long as you are in line to vote at the time the polls close you will be allowed to vote.
What is a provisional ballot?
If a voter’s eligibility is in question on Election Day they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot. After the voter marks their ballot and returns it to the poll worker, the voter is required to provide the necessary identification or documentation at the polling place before it closes or provide it at the Auditor’s Office by noon on the following Monday. If the canvass will be held earlier than the following Monday, the identification must be provided before the canvass.
If it is determined that you do have the right to vote in the precinct in which you voted, your ballot will then be counted and included in the final vote total.