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Everything You Need To Know To Vote By Mail In Iowa

Courtesy Iowa Secretary of State
This is the State of Iowa's official absentee ballot request form.

You should request your ballot as far in advance of the election as possible. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, election officials are encouraging Iowans to vote by mail in November.

In order to vote by mail in Iowa, you must submit a written application for a mailed absentee ballot, which must be received by your county auditor's office no later than 5 p.m. 10 days before the General Election. The general election is November 3, so your request must be received by your county auditor by 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.

How to vote by mail in Iowa

If you need to register to vote

If you've not voted in Iowa or haven't voted in a while and want to, the first thing you need to do is check to see if you are registered or get registered. You should also update your voter registration if your name, address or party affiliation has changed.

In order to register to vote in Iowa you must:

  • be a citizen of the United States
  • be a resident of Iowa
  • be at least 17 (you must be 18 on Election Day to vote)
  • not currently be judged by a court to be "incompetent to vote"
  • not claim the right to vote in more than one place

The governor of Iowa restored voting rights to most Iowans with felony convictions who have completed their sentence, including probation, parole and special sentences. There are some exclusions. Find more details here.

If you are already registered to vote

If you are registered to vote in Iowa, you might receive multiple absentee ballot request forms from different sources ahead of the November election. That is not a problem, and it may be increasingly common as voting by mail is encouraged during the coronavirus pandemic. Just pick one form, and make sure it requires the same information as the image above and that the return envelope is addressed to your county auditor.

  1. Fill out one of the request forms you receive or find one here.
  2. Find your county auditor's address.
  3. Mail your absentee ballot request to your county auditor.
  4. Wait for your ballot to arrive after they start getting mailed out on Oct. 5.
  5. Complete your ballot when you receive it and mail it back to your county auditor right away.

Some voters in Linn, Johnson and Woodbury counties will need to fill out and send a second absentee ballot request form to their county auditor if they wish to vote by mail. This applies to voters in those three counties who returned ballot requests that were prefilled with their personal information, including their voter PIN. Those prefilled request forms have been invalidated by judges. Affected voters can expect to receive a letter from their county auditor along with a new request form. They can also choose to send a ballot request form that came from a different source, such as the Iowa Secretary of State.

Tips for completing your absentee ballot request form

  • Complete all highlighted fields, and double-check your work to make sure your information is correct.
  • You’re not required to include your phone number and email address on your ballot request form, but election officials are encouraging voters to provide their phone number and/or email address. If there is a problem with your request, information can help your county auditor get in touch with you faster and resolve any issues.
  • The “ID Number” field asks for an Iowa driver’s license number, a state ID number, OR a “four-digit voter PIN.” If you have an Iowa driver’s license or an Iowa state ID, you can use that number, and you don’t need a voter PIN (but you can request a voter PIN from your county auditor if you wish).
  • If you don’t have an Iowa driver’s license or state ID, you should receive an “Iowa Voter Identification Card” in the mail after you register to vote. The four-digit PIN on that card goes in the “four-digit voter PIN” field on your absentee ballot request form. If you don’t have a voter ID card, call your county auditor. Note: a voter ID card is NOT the same as a voter registration card. Your voter PIN is NOT the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number.
  • Sign and date the form.
voter ID card
Iowa Secretary of State

Election officials say you should request your ballot as far in advance of the election as possible. Reminder: your ballot request must be received by your county auditor by 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

If you want to deliver your absentee ballot request in person

If you want to deliver your absentee ballot request in person, you'll need to hand your absentee ballot request form to someone at your county auditor's office, or locate a dropbox near your county auditor's office if that's an option in your county. Make sure to deliver your ballot request to your county auditor by 5 p.m. on Oct. 24.

Most voters will only need to turn in one absentee ballot request form. Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz is president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, which represents local election officials from all 99 counties. She said even if a voter chooses to send in multiple absentee ballot requests, their county auditor will only send them one ballot.

If you receive a phone call, letter or email from your county auditor about potential issues with your ballot request, respond to them as soon as possible to make sure you receive a ballot.

Track your absentee ballot

Iowa voters can track their absentee ballot on the secretary of state's website. Ballot requests will show up on this tracker when the county auditor receives the request and enters it into the election management system. County auditors start mailing absentee ballots to voters Oct. 5, and then you can track your ballot through the absentee voting process. If you have concerns about your ballot request or ballot being received, you can call your county auditor.

Voting in person early or on Election Day. Nov. 3, is also an option. If you request an absentee ballot and later decide to vote in person, you should surrender your absentee ballot at your polling place before receiving a new ballot.

If you still have questions about absentee voting, contact your county auditor.

Download and print an absentee ballot request form