Absentee ballot FAQ: What you need to know about voting by mail in Iowa

The Linn County Auditor's Office, which mailed absentee ballot request forms to active registered voters, has been sendi
The Linn County Auditor's Office, which mailed absentee ballot request forms to active registered voters, has been sending postcards to those who returned the requests to let them know the ballots will be mailed Oct. 5. (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

There are many questions surrounding absentee ballots as the Nov. 3 general election approaches. Here are some answer to help clear up confusion.

Why am I getting so many absentee ballot requests?

County auditors, the Secretary of State and nonprofit groups, including the Center for Voter Information, all are sending absentee ballot request forms to encourage vote by mail during the pandemic. Political groups also want their members to vote, so they are sending out absentee ballot request forms.

Which one should I complete?

Any ballot request form that doesn’t have pre-filled driver’s license or voter ID number is legal. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert recommended choosing one that goes directly to your county auditor, rather than the Secretary of State’s office or some other clearing house.

I heard something about pre-filled ballot request forms being invalid. Is that true?

A 6th Judicial District Judge invalidated 50,000 Linn County ballot request forms last month, saying the Linn County Auditor should not have pre-filled the forms with voter ID numbers. A similar ruling came down in Johnson County. But absentee ballot request forms pre-filled with other information, such as your name, address and date of birth, are legal.

Do I need my voter ID number to complete an absentee ballot request form? If so, how do I get it?


If you have a driver’s license, you can use that number instead of a four-digit voter ID number. To get your voter ID, call your county auditor. (Linn County: 319-892-5300, Johnson County: 319-356-6004)

Is completing more than one absentee ballot request form voter fraud?

No. Even if you complete and send in multiple forms, you still will just get one ballot.

What is the deadline for turning in my absentee ballot request form?

Forms must be received by your county auditor by 5 p.m. Oct. 24.

When will I get my absentee ballot?

Auditors will start sending out absentee ballots Oct. 5.

What’s the deadline for returning my absentee ballot?

Absentee ballots received in the county auditor’s office by the time the polls close on Nov. 3 are eligible for counting. Ballots received after the polls close must be postmarked by Nov. 2 and received in the county auditor’s office no later than Nov. 9.

How can I know if my absentee ballot request was received or my completed absentee ballot was received?

You can check the status of your absentee ballot through the Iowa Secretary of State’s absentee ballot tracker, sos.iowa.gov/elections/absenteeballotstatus. You’ll just need to enter your name and birth date.

If I get an absentee ballot but decide I don’t want to mail it, what should I do?


Voted absentee ballots not returned by mail before Election Day may be delivered to the county auditor’s office before the polls close. Voted absentee ballots cannot be turned in at polling places, but you may surrender your voted absentee ballot at the polls and vote a regular ballot. If you’ve lost the absentee ballot mailed to you, you can vote a provisional ballot at the polls.

Will my ballot be forwarded to my new address? I will be moving before I have received my ballot.

Election mail, including absentee ballots, cannot be forwarded, according to the Linn County Auditor's Office, even if you have requested mail forwarding through the Post Office.†

If you've already submitted a ballot request, do not submit another form. Instead, call your county auditor's office to work to resolve the issue. Reach the Linn auditor's office at 319-892-5300, extension†1. Johnson County:†319-356-6004

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