Iowa absentee ballots go out Monday, early voting begins

#x201c;I Voted#x201d; buttons lay in a bowl on the voting machine as voters case their ballots in the Iowa City Communit
“I Voted” buttons lay in a bowl on the voting machine as voters case their ballots in the Iowa City Community School District’s Revenue Purpose Statement at the Coralville Community Center on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, in Coralville, Iowa. (The Gazette)

Iowa election officials will begin mailing out absentee ballots Monday, and it’s the first day voters can go to their county auditor’s offices or a satellite locations to vote early in person.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said Friday that 632,549 voters have requested an absentee ballot. Democrats requested more than 335,000 ballots, Republicans requested nearly 187,000 and no-party voters asked for about 108,000 ballots.

County officials are saying the pace is far ahead of previous elections. In Polk County, for example, Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald said he received 111,462 ballot requests as of Oct. 1, compared with 45,191 requests at the same time in 2016. The county has 305,870 registered active voters. The coronavirus pandemic was expected to prompt record numbers of people to vote by absentee ballot rather than at the polls on Nov. 3.


Voters in Iowa may vote from home by requesting an absentee ballot, they may vote in person beginning Monday at their county auditor’s office or a designated satellite location or they can wait until Election Day and vote at the polls.


Iowa voters have been bombarded this year with absentee ballot request forms sent by numerous get-out-the-vote organizations, political parties, county election officials and the Iowa secretary of state. Voters need only fill out one request form and send it to their county auditor to get a ballot. The Iowa secretary of state office also has a form available on its website. It can be filled out and mailed to the voter’s county auditor.


Required information on the form is highlighted in yellow, including the voter’s name, date of birth and an identification number, which can be a driver’s license number or four-digit PIN number on an Iowa voter ID card. A card can be obtained from the voter’s county auditor upon request. The voter’s residential address and an address where the ballot should be mailed to if different must be filled in. The election date and type of election is likely already filled out for the general election on Nov. 3, 2020. The voter must sign the form. The section for contact information is not required but providing a telephone number or email address could make it easier for the election official to reach out to the voter to confirm any information on the form if needed.


Iowans have until 5 p.m. Oct. 24 to request an absentee ballot. Once the ballot is completed it must received by the county auditor by the time polls close on Nov. 3 or postmarked by Nov. 2 and received by the auditor by noon Monday, Nov. 9. The Postal Service has recommended mailing ballots at least a week before the due date but given concerns this year with volume of ballots and other issues, mailing the ballot earlier is better. The Iowa secretary of state office has a ballot tracker on its website. An absentee ballot may also be returned in person to the county auditor’s office and many counties have set up a drop box outside the auditor’s office to accept completed ballots.


Iowa law allows counties to begin counting absentee ballots the day before Election Day and requires they be counted by 10 p.m. on election night. Typically absentee ballots are tallied and are the first results reported on Election Day. It’s unclear how that may work this year with an extremely high volume of absentee ballots. Absentee ballots received after Election Day but before the deadline are counted when the absentee and special voters’ precinct board meets as long as they are postmarked the day before Election Day or earlier.


Iowa voters can also cast a ballot in person at their county auditor’s office beginning Monday and through Nov. 2. Some counties may have set up a satellite location established for early in-person voting. Voters must have approved identification to vote.


Polls will be open on Election Day, Nov. 3., from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Voters can find their polling place here. Voters who are in quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus can still vote but are asked to use a curbside option. Signs will be posted at the polling place for curbside voting with a telephone number to call. An election official wearing protective gear will bring a ballot to voters, check their ID and help complete the process from the voter’s car.


Pate says 2,056,085 Iowans were registered to vote as of Oct. 1. Voter registration records show 703,336 are registered as Republicans, 690,251 as Democrats, 646,725 as no party voters and 15,773 as other.

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