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Candidate FAQ

Candidate FAQ

Where can I obtain nomination papers? Where do I file nomination papers?

Nomination papers are available at the Secretary of State's Office and on its website. They are also available at county auditors' offices.

Nomination papers for federal and state offices must be filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

Nomination papers for county offices must be filed in the county auditor's office.

Nomination papers for school elections are filed with the appropriate school secretary.

Nomination papers for city offices are filed in the appropriate county auditor office.

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What are the filing deadlines?

See the Three-Year Election Calendar for candidate filing deadlines for regularly scheduled elections.

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Is there a filing fee for filing nomination papers?


There are no candidate filing fees in Iowa.

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Who may sign my nomination petition?

Eligible electors of the appropriate county, district, or ward (as applicable) may sign nomination petitions.

For example, any eligible elector in Iowa may sign a petition for a statewide office (i.e. governor, U.S. senator) because those races will appear on every ballot in the state.

However, for all other races, petitions may only be signed by those eligible electors in the county or district. For example, the signature of an eligible elector from County A who signed the nomination petition for a county treasurer candidate from County B cannot be counted because that elector is not eligible to vote for that candidate.

There is no limit on the number of nomination petitions one elector may sign.

An eligible elector is a person who meets all of the qualifications to register to vote. However, an eligible elector is not required to be a registered voter.

An eligible elector must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Be a resident of Iowa
  • Be at least 17 years old (must be 18 years old by Election Day, or for Primary Elections be 18 by the General or City Election to vote or sign petitions)

An eligible elector may not:

  • Be a convicted felon (unless the felon's voting rights have been restored by the president or governor)
  • Be currently judged incompetent to vote by a court
  • Claim the right to vote in any other place

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Can I sign my own nomination petition?


You may sign your own nomination papers if you are an eligible elector at the time of signing and at the time of filing your nomination papers.

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Do my nomination papers have to be notarized?


A candidate's affidavit of candidacy must be notarized. Nomination petitions do not need to be notarized.

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Do I have to file papers to be a write-in candidate?


In Iowa, you do not need to file nomination papers or declarations of intent to be a write-in candidate.

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Can I run for a state or federal partisan office if I'm not affiliated with a political party or a non-party political organization (NPPO)?

Yes, but only for the general election and special elections to fill vacancies. Partisan elections in Iowa include the primary and general elections. The primary election is held to nominate political party candidates to the general election ballot; therefore, candidates who are not affiliated with either political party cannot participate in the primary election.

Unaffiliated Candidates – Nominated by Petition

Although most candidates circulate nomination petitions at some point, candidates who are "Nominated by Petition" have no party or NPPO affiliation. Candidates who have no affiliation must note that on their nomination papers (candidate's affidavit and petition pages) by checking the box next to "Not affiliated with any organization" on the affidavit of candidacy and nomination petitions. The words "Nominated by Petition" will follow the name of the candidate on the ballot.

Important Note: Writing "Independent" on candidate nomination papers does NOT mean the candidate is independent of party affiliation. Rather, when a candidate uses the word "Independent" on nomination papers, the candidate is indicating that the candidate is affiliated with the Independent NPPO. As a result, the word "Independent" will follow the candidate's name on the ballot.

Non-Party Political Organization (NPPO) Candidates

Iowa law calls a political organization not meeting the statutory political party requirements a non-party political organization (NPPO). There are many NPPOs. NPPOs do not need to file any special paperwork to be officially recognized by the State. NPPOs may nominate one candidate for each partisan office. Candidates affiliated with an NPPO may be nominated in one of two ways:

  • By circulating nomination petitions (this is the most common method) or
  • By holding a nominating convention.

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Where can I find information about campaign disclosure and ethics requirements?

For information about candidates' ethics and campaign filing responsibilities and deadlines, please contact the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (515-281-4028).

Federal candidates: For information about financial disclosure requirements, please contact the Federal Election Commission (1-800-424-9530).

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What occurs if the election results in a tie?

Generally, when a tie occurs between two candidates, lots are drawn (i.e. a name is pulled out of a hat) to determine the winner.

If there is a tie vote for a public measure, lots are not drawn. The measure fails.

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How do I request a recount?

A request for a recount must be filed in writing with the county auditor. The recount request must be signed by the candidate and include the following information:

  • The office for which the candidate is requesting the recount,
  • The precinct(s) to be recounted, and
  • A recount board designee.

A sample recount request form is available in the Election Forms Library.

For most elections, recount requests must be filed no later than 5 p.m. on the third day after the county canvass of votes. For city primary elections and the regular city election in cities with runoff provisions, the deadline is 5 p.m. on the day after the county canvass of votes. Double check the recount request deadline by contacting the county auditor.

Any person who received votes for an office, including the person who received the most votes, may request a recount.

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Does Iowa have term limits?


Iowa does not have term limits.

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Does Iowa have recall election provisions for elected officials?


Iowa law does not allow for recall elections in which voters decide whether to remove an elected official from office before the end of their term.

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When does my term start?

See the Terms of Offices for Elected Officials for term start date information.

If you were elected to fill a vacancy or if you must be sworn in early because the office is currently vacant or filled by an appointee, you must take the oath of office within 10 days after the county canvass of votes.

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