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How to Exercise Your Right to Vote in Iowa

Even with accommodating voting laws, Iowans should understand their rights

Iowa is one of 16 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that essentially has no voter registration deadline. Iowa law allows residents to register to vote up until, and on, the day of an election. Research demonstrates that Election Day registration increases voter turnout by anywhere between 5 and 10 percent over states without same-day registration.

Who can vote in Iowa?

To be eligible to vote in Iowa, a person must be 18 years old, as well as a U.S. and Iowa resident. Residence is described as the place in which a person declares their home with the intent to remain there permanently, or for a definite, indefinite or indeterminable length of time. Iowa residents who then move out-of-state are still eligible to vote in Iowa until that person is eligible to vote in their new state.

Residents convicted of a felony under Iowa or federal laws are ineligible to vote until their voting rights are restored. Individuals with felony convictions can apply online through the Iowa governor’s office for executive clemency, which restores the right to vote and the right to hold public office.

How to register on Election Day

Iowans can check online to see if they are registered to vote with the secretary of state’s office. Regardless, eligible voters can both register to vote on Election Day by appearing in person at their precinct’s polling place where they reside. They must complete a voter registration application, make a written oath and provide proof of identity and residence. The best way to establish identity and residence is to present a current and valid Iowa driver’s license or Iowa non-operator’s identification card, or by presenting any of the following current and valid forms of identification:

  • Out-of-state driver’s license or non-driver ID
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. military ID
  • Employee ID card
  • High school or college ID
  • Tribal ID

The identification must contain the voter’s photograph. It must also contain an expiration date, showing when the identification is no longer valid. If the photo identification does not contain a current address, a voter may use another document to prove where they live if the document contains the voter’s name and current address. Acceptable forms of a voter’s proof of residence include:

  • Residential lease
  • Utility bill
  • Bank statement
  • Paycheck
  • Government check or document

If voters still might not be able to furnish the identity or proof of residence requirements, Iowa law allows the use of attesters: a registered voter from the voter’s precinct who can vouch for the voter’s identity and residence.

Iowa will purge voter registrations

Iowa law allows the purging of voter registrations. If a registered voter does not vote in two consecutive general elections (general elections occurring every two years) and fails to register again or report a change to an existing registration, the voter’s registration may be canceled. The secretary of state will send notices to registered voters who meet these conditions, warning that the voter’s registration will be canceled unless the voter responds. Voter registrations will also be canceled for Iowa voters who later register to vote in another state.

Iowa voters who experience problems at the polls with their registrations should seek out the advice of an experienced Iowa civil rights attorney, who can inform them of their rights and options. For more information on this area of law, see our civil rights overview.

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