Election Day FAQ
- Where do I go to vote on election day?
- Do voters have to show ID at the polls?
- What about voters who don’t have an ID?
- Can I wear a campaign button or t-shirt into the polling place when I vote?
- Can I still vote if I am hospitalized on election day?
- How do I mark my ballot?
- If I need assistance while voting due to a physical disability or inability to read English, can someone assist me?
- Can I bring my children with me into the voting booth?
- I received a phone call that the polls will be open on Wednesday and on Tuesday? Is this true?
- Are there undercover police officers at the polls on election day waiting to arrest voters who have outstanding warrants or traffic tickets?
- What is a provisional ballot?
- Can the media be at the polls photographing, filming, and interviewing voters?
- Am I allowed to take paid time off work to vote on election day?
- Can someone serve as a precinct election official if that person is related to a candidate on the ballot?
- If I don't vote for every race, will my ballot be counted?
- What can I do if I make a mistake when voting my ballot?
- Does Iowa have term limits?
You need to go to the polling place for your precinct. To find your polling place, visit Find Your Precinct/Polling Place.
Iowa voters are required to show an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, U.S. passport, U.S. military ID or veteran’s ID, tribal ID/document or Iowa voter ID card at the polls before they vote. A voter without one of the listed forms of ID may have the voter’s identity attested to by another registered voter in the precinct or may prove identity and residence using Election Day Registration documents. Voters without the necessary ID or an attester will be offered a provisional ballot and can provide ID up until the time of the county canvass of votes (Monday after election day for Primary and General Elections).
Any registered voter who does not have a valid driver's license or non-operator's ID issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation will be issued a Voter ID Card for free, automatically, in the mail. This also applies to anyone who registers to vote in the future. Upon receipt of the Voter ID Card, it should be immediately signed. Obtaining the Voter ID Card does not require any further documentation or action by the voter; voters simply need to be registered to vote in the county where they live.
Voters may wear a campaign button or clothing when they go to vote but must leave the polling place as soon as they are done voting. Campaigning or electioneering of any kind in a polling place is illegal; loitering in a polling place while wearing political items is considered electioneering.
Employees of the county auditor's office, precinct election officials, poll watchers, and observers at satellite voting locations are not allowed to wear political items while at the polling place.
For more information, see Voting at Health Care Facilities.
Each voting booth will have instructions on how to mark your ballot.
For most elections in Iowa, you will vote on a paper ballot with ovals. To mark your choice, fill in the oval completely next to your choice. To vote for a write-in candidate, write the candidate's name on the write-in line and fill in the oval completely next to the write-in candidate's name.
Once you have marked your ballot, the ballot will be inserted into an optical scan voting machine which scans your ballot and tallies the results.
Iowa does not have straight-party or straight-ticket voting. Voters will need to mark each race they wish to vote on.
If I need assistance while voting due to a physical disability or inability to read English, can someone assist me?
If you need help marking your ballot due to a physical disability or inability to read the ballot in the English language, you may choose any person to help you except your employer, your employer's agent, or an officer/agent of your union. If you would like help from the precinct election officials on election day, two officials (one from each political party in partisan elections) will assist you. You will be asked to sign a form showing you asked for help. If you are not physically able to sign the forms, you can use a rubber stamp or mark to sign. You may also ask for assistance or have someone sign the form on your behalf as long as it is in your presence and with your permission.
If you are unable to enter the building where the polling place is located because of a disability, curbside voting is available at each precinct. Two precinct election officials, one from each political party in partisan elections, will take voting materials out to you in your vehicle. You can then mark your ballot in your vehicle. If you need to utilize curbside voting, it is a good idea to call the county auditor's office before you go to the polling place so the county auditor can call ahead and let the precinct election officials know you will be needing assistance voting from your vehicle.
For more information, see Voting Accessibility.
When accompanied by a parent, minor children are allowed into the voting booth.
Elections in Iowa are held on Tuesdays only. If you ever have questions about when an election will take place or about when the polls will be open, call the county auditor's office or the Secretary of State's Office at 1-888-SOS-VOTE.
Are there undercover police officers at the polls on election day waiting to arrest voters who have outstanding warrants or traffic tickets?
A provisional ballot is used by voters whose qualifications to vote have been challenged, voters who can't prove they are qualified to vote, and voters who requested absentee ballots but did not surrender them at the polls.
If your name is not on the list of registered voters or if someone challenges your right to vote on Election Day, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot. You have the right to provide evidence showing why you are eligible to vote. You may provide evidence to the precinct election officials or to the county auditor's office by the deadline listed on the provisional ballot envelope.
The absentee and special voters' precinct board will meet after Election Day to review your registration record and the information you provided. The board will then decide if your ballot can be counted. Before you leave the polls on Election Day, you will be given a written notice explaining your voting rights and listing the date on which the special ballot board will meet so you may be present to observe and present more information to the board.
If your ballot is not counted, you will receive a letter in the mail explaining why it was not counted.
Contact your county auditor for questions related to your provisional ballot.
Credentialed reporters, photographers and other staff with the media may be present at the polls as long as they are not interfering with the election process in any way.
Voters may not be interrupted, hindered, or opposed while trying to enter the polling place, while inside the enclosed voting space, or while marking a ballot. The media may photograph or film activity inside the polling place but cannot take any images of how a voter marks or has marked a ballot.
A voter must give permission before being photographed or filmed. If the media wishes to speak to voters about how and why they voted, the media must be outside the polling place to do so.
Iowa voters who do not have three consecutive hours when they are not required to be at work during the time between when the polls open and close on election day are entitled to up to three hours off from work to vote.
Employees must make an individual written request for time off to vote to their employer before election day. The employer designates the period of time the employee will be allowed to leave work to vote. The employee cannot be penalized and deductions cannot be made from the employee's regular salary or wages on account of this absence.
Example: An employee works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and wishes to vote at an election where the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The employee would not be entitled to time off work to vote in this instance because the employee has four consecutive hours (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) that the employee is not required to be at work while the polls are open.
However, if the employee worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the employee would be entitled to time off work to vote. In this instance, the employee does not have three consecutive hours off work while the polls are open.
Can someone serve as a precinct election official if that person is related to a candidate on the ballot?
Precinct election officials may not serve in a precinct if they are related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to an opposed candidate on the ballot. Consanguinity means family relationship by blood. Affinity means family relationship by marriage.
Persons who fall into this category include the candidate's spouse and the candidate's and spouse's:
- Parents and children,
- Siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren, and
- Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, great grandparents, and great grandchildren.
Family members of judges are not subject to this provision of Iowa law because judges standing for retention at the General Election are not considered to be opposed candidates.
You may choose which races you want to vote for on your ballot. For example, some voters only want to vote for president and vice president. The races and public measures you choose to vote on will be counted and the races and public measures you do not vote on will not be counted.
If you make a mistake while voting your ballot at the polling place, tell a precinct election official. The official will take the ballot on which you've made the mistake and have you "spoil" it so it cannot be counted. You will then be given another ballot to vote. Voters may receive up to three ballots.