By Katarina Sostaric, Iowa Public Radio
Iowans who register to vote and select a party affiliation of Republican or Democrat can vote in this spring’s primary elections.
Republicans in the Iowa Legislature passed sweeping voting law changes last year that include shortening the time allowed for voting by mail, voting early in person, and voting in person on Election Day. This is how Iowans can request an absentee ballot under the newest rules.
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. 15 days before Election Day. This year, Primary Election Day is Tuesday, June 7, so your request must be received by your county auditor by 5 p.m. Monday, May 23.
“If someone is wanting to vote by mail, I would suggest getting an absentee ballot request form filled out and sent in as soon as possible,” said Jennifer Garms, president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors.
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. To vote in the primary elections this year, you must select Democrat or Republican.
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.
The deadline for voter pre-registration is Monday, May 23. Iowans can also register to vote at their polling places on Primary Election Day.
If you are already registered to vote
- Print an absentee ballot request form or call your county auditor and ask them to send you a request form.
- Complete the ballot request form, and sign and date it. Check the box to indicate if you will vote in the Republican or Democratic primary.
- Find your county auditor’s address.
- Mail your absentee ballot request to your county auditor.
- Wait for your ballot to arrive. Counties can start mailing ballots on May 18.
- Complete your ballot when you receive it and mail or bring it back to your county auditor right away. The new law says absentee ballots must be received by your county auditor by 8 p.m. on Primary Election Day in order to get counted.
In 2020, the Iowa secretary of state and several county auditors mailed absentee ballot request forms to all active registered voters. They are no longer allowed to do that under a new state law. Other groups may still send the forms to voters. If you choose to use a ballot request form sent by a different group, make sure it requires the same information as the state’s official ballot request form and that the return envelope is addressed to your county auditor.
Tips for completing your absentee ballot request form
- Complete all 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.
Reminder: your ballot request must be received by your county auditor by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 23.
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 by 5 p.m. on May 23.
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 May 18, 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. County auditors must receive your absentee ballot by 8 p.m. on Primary Election Day, June 7, in order for your absentee ballot to get counted.
Voting in person early or on Primary Election Day, June 7, are also options for voting. Early in-person voting starts at county elections offices on May 18. Polling places will be open on Election Day, June 7, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If you still have questions about absentee voting, contact your county auditor.
Request your absentee ballot request form here