Qualifying residents may register to vote in Iowa as late as Election Day. Pre-registration is strongly advised, however, as last-minute delays can cause Election Day registrants their opportunities to cast their ballots. To promote voter registration, state election authorities have taken steps to ensure that the process is relatively fast and simple. Applicants can register online, by mail or in person with electoral authorities or at any Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

Under Iowa law, all applicants must provide proof of identity and residence when registering for the first time or seeking to update or change voter registration records. Voters must also supply proof of identity when casting their ballots. Each registered voter will be issued a card, but these cards are not required when voting and cannot be used as identification in most cases. Reviewing electoral options ahead of time can allow voters to maximize their voting convenience.

Who can register to vote in Iowa?

To register to vote in Iowa, applicants must be legal residents of the state and citizens of the United States. They must be at least 17-and-a-half years of age and be turning 18 by Election Day. Applicants cannot complete the registration process if they are convicted felons who are incarcerated or whose rights have not yet been restored, if a court has deemed them mentally incompetent to vote or if they are still casting votes in another state.

Iowa Voter Registration Deadline

In general, qualifying applicants may register to vote in Iowa until approximately 10 days prior to an election. Different or additional deadlines may apply to applicants who desire absentee ballots or who intend to participate in early voting. Applicants who miss the registration window may register at their assigned polling places on Election Day.

How to Register to Vote in Iowa

Applicants exploring how to register to vote in Iowa will find that they have a variety of options. Many applicants decide that the easiest way to register is to use the online application system. The online system is facilitated by the Iowa DMV. Residents applying online must have valid Iowa drivers licenses or DMV-issued non-driver ID cards.

Potential voters who do not have valid Iowa drivers licenses or DMV-issued non-driver ID cards or who prefer not to use the online system may apply for a voter registration card in person using a hard copy application form at their County Auditor’s Office or a DMV facility. Applications can also be submitted to county auditors by mail.

All voter registration applicants must provide proof of identity and address with their applications. Examples of acceptable photo IDs when registering to vote include:

  • Iowa drivers licenses or non-driver IDs.
  • Tribal photo ID cards.
  • United States passports.
  • United States Military ID cards.
  • School or employer-issued photo IDs.

In some cases, applicants’ IDs will satisfactorily show their addresses on record. If they do not, additional documentation may be required. For instance, voter registration applicants might provide utility bills, pay stubs, bank statements or lease agreements to prove their places of residence.

Applicants who have no acceptable documents may swear an oath as their identity and have it attested by a registered voter from their precinct, instead. Falsifying such an oath is a felony and can result in fines and incarceration.

Early Voting in Iowa

After answering the question “Where do I vote in Iowa and when?” some applicants may opt to participate in early voting. Early voting is sometimes also referred to “absentee voting in person.”

It is an accommodation under which Iowa electoral authorities allow registered voters to submit their ballots at their County Auditors’ Offices prior to Election Day. Ballots must be filled out at the Auditors’ Offices at the time of submission. Voters do not need to provide a reason to participate.

Iowa Voter Registration for Active Duty Military and Out-of-State Residents

Iowa residents who are living out of the state, out of the country or who are in Active Duty Military Service can simply register to vote online or by mail using the standard processes. During registration, they can elect to receive absentee ballots by mail, email or fax. Military members may also potentially qualify to return their ballots by email or fax, if desired. Additional signatures and forms apply.

Voter registration card holders who are not engaged in military service may also receive their ballots in a variety of ways but must return their ballots by mail by the assigned deadline. Deadlines may vary by election and will be clearly marked on the ballots.

Iowa Voter Registration for Absentee Voting

Any resident registered to vote in Iowa can order an absentee ballot by mail or in person from a County Auditor’s Office. Absentee ballots will be sent to voters who requested them a set period of time prior to Election Day. Voters can then take their ballots to their Auditors’ Offices and submit them in person under Early Voting rules, or they may return them by mail by the deadlines marked on the forms.

Voter registration card holders voting by mail should carefully review all instructions associated with their ballots to ensure they are completed and returned properly and on time. Failure to do so can result in ballots not being counted.

Voter Registration Cards in Iowa

Iowa voter registration cards serve as documentation that residents’ applications to vote were accepted and fully processed. They provide a clear answer the question “Am I registered to vote in Iowa?” for voters and poll workers. The cards show key personal identifying information for the voter on record, as well as information on where, when and how they can and should vote. Voters with Iowa drivers licenses or non-driver IDs do not need their cards to vote.

In response to recent legislation, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office issued new voter registration cards to registered voters across the state who do not hold DMV-issued photo IDs. The new cards contain personal identification numbers (PINs) that can be used as legal identification at the polls.

How to Change Your Voter Registration in Iowa

Residents who need to request an Iowa voter registration change of address, name or other voter information can do so quickly using the online system if they have a valid DMV-issued ID. All other voters may apply to change voter registration address, name or political affiliation using a hard-copy form submitted by mail or in person to their County Auditor’s Office.

When updating their registrations, drivers should also be sure to change the name on their driver’s licenses, as well as on other important DMV documents, such as their car registrations.

How to Replace a Lost Iowa Voter Registration Card

Voters who have lost or damaged their voter registration cards or who have updated their records, making their previous cards obsolete, can request new cards from their County Auditors’ Offices.

Last updated on Thursday, October 15 2020.