Voting FAQs for College Students

As a college student, you can register to vote either at your home address or at your student address in Ames. You should vote wherever you consider to be home. Be sure to register and vote at only ONE address.

The Catt Center believes the following information is current and factually correct. However, it does not constitute legal advice and it does not supersede any information provided by state or local election officials.

Voting in Iowa
Voting in Minnesota
Voting in Illinois
Voting in Other States



Voting in Iowa

How do I register to vote?
How do I caucus?
Does Iowa have primary elections?
How do I vote on Election Day?
Upcoming elections and caucuses in the Ames area

How do I register to vote?

You may already be registered! Iowa residents can check to see if they are already registered here: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/regtovote/search.aspx.

If you are not yet registered in Iowa or you wish to change your registration to your Ames address, you can register before Election Day (much easier) or at the polls on Election Day.

Whenever you register to vote in Iowa or update your registration, you fill out a voter registration form. An ID number is always required. If you have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, that is the ID number you use. If you do not have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, you use the last four digits of your Social Security number.

How do I register before Election Day?

To register before Election Day, fill out a State of Iowa Official Voter Registration Form and return it to your county auditor’s office either by mail or in person at least 10 days before a general election or 11 days before all other elections. Make sure you sign the form! Please allow at least five days for mail delivery. If you are registering in Story County, no postage is required. If you are registering in another county in Iowa, stamps can be found at your local post office, including the one in the ISU Memorial Union.

If you have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, you can register online. You will also need to know the last five digits of your Social Security number.

If you DO NOT have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, the county auditor will mail you a voter ID card to take with you to the polls on Election Day. Be sure to check your mailbox; it takes about a week. This card must be signed in order to be valid. Sign it before entering your polling place.

If you have an Iowa driver’s license or a non-operator ID, you will also receive mail from the county auditor’s office after registering, but this is informational only, including your polling location and ID requirements. Take your Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID with you to the polls on Election Day as proof of ID. In most counties in Iowa, those forms of ID can be scanned for quicker processing.

How do I register on Election Day?

It is highly recommended that you pre-register to vote.

If you register on Election Day, you must bring both a proof of residence and a valid form of ID with an expiration date to your polling place.

Your proof of residence must be one of the following documents, must contain your name and address, and be current within 45 days:

  • Residential lease (term of lease must be current)
  • Utility bill, including a cell phone bill
  • Bank statement
  • Paycheck
  • Government check
  • Other government document
  • Property tax statement

You can also find your proof of residence under the Student tab of your AccessPlus account under the option labeled “Voter Reg Address.”

Proof of identity for Election Day registrants must be one of the following:

  • Iowa driver’s license
  • Iowa non-operator’s ID
  • Out of state driver’s license or non-operator ID
  • Military ID
  • U.S. passport
  • Tribal ID
  • Veteran’s ID

Because it does not have an expiration date, your Iowa State student ID is not an acceptable form of identification. Proof of address may be shown in electronic format but proof of ID cannot.

How do I caucus?

What is the Iowa Caucus?

The Iowa Caucus is a collection of Democratic and Republican party meetings that take place in precincts across the state on the same evening to select a U.S. presidential candidate for each party. Unlike primaries, the caucuses are organized and results are reported by the political parties, not the state auditor’s office.

Delegates are selected at each precinct’s meeting for the county, and ultimately the district, state and national conventions, to determine the delegates to send to each party’s national convention.

For all other elected offices, Iowa uses the primary system to select its candidates. Therefore, in presidential election years, Iowa will have both a caucus to select a presidential candidate and a primary to select candidates for congressional and state-level offices.

Who can participate in a caucus?

Registered voters in Iowa who will be 18 years old on Election Day may participate in a caucus in their precinct. You must be registered with the Democratic or Republican party (these are the only recognized political parties in Iowa), and you can caucus only for that party. This means if you are registered as an independent, you cannot participate in the Democratic or Republican caucus. You can register with a party on site, the day of the caucus.

How do I caucus for the Republican Party?

Go to your precinct caucus location on Feb. 3, 2020. You can find your precinct’s caucus location on the website of the Republican Party of Iowa. At 7 p.m., you will be able to cast a ballot for your preferred presidential candidate. After the vote, members will be elected to serve on the local county central committee, delegates and alternate delegates will be selected for the county party convention and platform planks can be submitted for the county party platform.

For more information, click here.

How do I caucus for the Democratic Party?

In 2020, you can either caucus in person at a precinct caucus location or you can caucus remotely through one of six virtual caucuses. Virtual caucuses may include a teleconference, online virtual conference or another secure method. If you caucus virtually, you cannot participate in the in-person caucus.

To participate in a virtual caucus, you must register to vote as a Democrat in Iowa by Dec. 31, 2019, then pre-register for the caucus with the Iowa Democratic Party between 9 a.m., Jan. 6 and 5 p.m., Jan. 17. Virtual caucus times are Jan. 29 at 7 p.m., Jan. 30 at 12 p.m. (noon), Jan. 31 at 7:30 a.m., Feb. 1 at 10 a.m., Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. Attendees at each virtual caucus will rank up to five preference groups, the results will be tabulated after the last virtual caucus, and delegates will be apportioned appropriately at the congressional district level.

To caucus in person, go to your precinct caucus location on Feb. 3, 2020. You can find your precinct caucus location on the website of the Iowa Democratic Party after Sept. 1, 2019. The caucus will be called to order, and a permanent chair and a permanent secretary will be elected. Participants will divide into groups by candidate preference and be counted. Based on these numbers, delegates will be selected to send onward and vote for presidential candidates.

For more information, click here.

Does Iowa have primary elections?

For congressional and state-level offices other than the president, Iowa uses the primary system to select its nominees. Therefore, in presidential election years, Iowa will have both a caucus to select the presidential candidates and a primary to select candidates for congressional and state-level offices. In non-presidental election years, Iowa will have just a primary.

The next Iowa primary is June 2, 2020.

Story County does not have primaries for local elections, such as county, city and school board seats.

How do I vote on Election Day?

You can vote in person on Election Day, by absentee ballot in person at the county auditor’s office, by absentee ballot at a satellite voting station or by absentee ballot by mail. Classes are still held and the University is still open on Election Day, so choose a method that fits your schedule and make your Election Day plans ahead of time!

How do I vote on Election Day?

On Election Day, vote at the polling place for your precinct. For primary and general elections, polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. You must provide a form of ID with an expiration date. Your Iowa State student ID does not have an expiration date and cannot be used as ID.

How do I vote absentee by mail?

Fill out the State of Iowa Official Absentee Ballot Request Form to request an absentee ballot. Return it to your county auditor by mail or in person, and then the county auditor will mail you a ballot. The request form must be received by the county auditor by 5 p.m. on the Friday 11 days before the election. Please allow at least five days for mail delivery. In Iowa, all absentee ballots are postage paid. All absentee ballots are counted and tabulated on Election Day.

How do I vote absentee in person at the auditor’s office?

You can cast an absentee ballot in person at your county auditor’s office starting 29 days before the election. You must cast the ballot at the auditor’s office; you can’t take it home. All absentee ballots are counted and tabulated on Election Day.

What if I want to vote early, but can’t make it to the auditor’s office?

Some county auditors host satellite voting locations for early voters. Ballots are completed and cast at the satellite voting location. All absentee ballots are counted and tabulated on Election Day.

To find out if your county auditor is hosting a satellite voting station, contact your local county auditor’s office. Typically, Story County hosts several days of satellite voting on the ISU campus for presidential and gubernatorial elections. You must be registered in Story County to vote at these locations.


Upcoming Elections and Caucuses in the Ames Area

Aug. 6, 2019 Special Election for Iowa House District 46 (previously held by Lisa Heddens)
Sept. 10, 2019 Bond Referendum Vote for the Healthy Life Center
Nov. 5, 2019 Regular City and School Board Election
Dec. 3, 2019 City Runoff (if needed; Ames only)
Feb. 3, 2020 Iowa Caucus
June 2, 2020 Primary Election
Nov. 3, 2020 General Election

Voting in Minnesota


How do I register to vote?
How do I vote?
I still have questions. Where can I look for more answers?

How do I register to vote?

You may already be registered! Minnesota residents can check to see if they are already registered here: https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/VoterStatus.aspx.

If you are not yet registered, you can register online, by mail or in person on Election Day.

How do I register online?

You can register online here. You will need an email address, a Minnesota driver’s license, a Minnesota ID card or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Be sure to register at least 21 days before Election Day.

How do I register by mail?

To register by mail, print and complete the Minnesota Voter Registration Application, and mail it to the Minnesota secretary of state. Be sure to register at least 21 days before Election Day. Please allow at least five days for mail delivery. Stamps can be found at your local post office, including the one in the ISU Memorial Union.

How do I register on Election Day?

To register in person on Election Day, go to the polling place for your home address in Minnesota and register to vote before you receive your ballot. You must provide an ID with your current name and address or a photo ID and a document with your current name and address. This is to prove you live where you say you live.

For more information, click here.

How do I vote?

You can vote in person on Election Day, by absentee ballot in person at your county election office, or by absentee ballot by mail. Classes are still held and the University is still open on Election Day, so choose a method that fits your schedule and make your Election Day plans ahead of time!

How do I vote in the primary election?

In Minnesota, the voting process for primaries is the same as it is for other elections. Follow the steps listed below. The Minnesota Presidential Nominating Primary is March 3, 2020, with early voting beginning Jan. 17.

How do I vote on Election Day?

To vote on Election Day, go to the polling place for your home address in Minnesota. If your voter registration is current, you do not need to bring an ID.

How do I vote absentee by mail?

For information about early voting in Minnesota, you can watch this video.

To apply for an absentee ballot, fill out the Minnesota Absentee Ballot Application. You can return this application either online or by mailing it to your county election office.

An absentee ballot will then be mailed to you. You will need a witness that is either a Minnesota voter or a notary to sign the ballot. Student Legal Services (0367 Memorial Union) provides notary services; you can contact their office at 515-294-0978. Mail the completed ballot back to the election office that sent it to you. Your ballot must be received by Election Day! Please allow at least five days for mail delivery. Stamps can be found at your local post office, including the one in the ISU Memorial Union. You can track your ballot here.

How do I vote early in person?

You can register, receive an absentee ballot and vote (all at once) at your county election office. In addition to your county election office, some cities and towns offer in-person absentee voting. Check with your city clerk’s office for more information.

Click here to find early voting locations and dates that early voting is open.

I still have questions. Where can I look for more answers?

For more information on voting in Minnesota as a college student, click here. You can also contact the Minnesota secretary of state at 877-600-VOTE (8683).


Illinois

Voting in Illinois


How do I register to vote?
How do I vote?
I still have questions. Where can I look for more answers?

How do I register to vote?

You may already be registered! Illinois residents can check to see if they are already registered here: https://ova.elections.il.gov/RegistrationLookup.aspx.

If you are not yet registered, you can register online, by mail or in person on Election Day.

How do I register online?

You can register online here. You will need an Illinois driver’s license or state ID, and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Be sure to register at least 16 days before Election Day if you’re registering online.

How do I register by mail?

To register by mail, print and complete the Illinois Voter Registration Application, and mail it to your county clerk or an Election Board listing. Be sure to register at least 28 days before Election Day. Please allow at least five days for mail delivery. Stamps can be found at your local post office, including the one in the ISU Memorial Union.

How do I register on Election Day?

To register in person on Election Day, go to the polling place for your home address in Illinois and register to vote before you receive your ballot. You must provide an ID with your current name and address or a photo ID and a document with your current name and address. This is to prove you live where you say you live.

How do I vote?

You can vote in person on Election Day, early in person at your county election authority office or early voting location, or by mail. Classes are still held and the University is still open on Election Day, so choose a method that fits your schedule and make your Election Day plans ahead of time!

How do I vote in the primary election?

In Illinois, the voting process for primaries is the same as it is for other elections. Follow the steps listed below. The Illinois presidential primary is March 17, 2020.

How do I vote on Election Day?

To vote on Election Day, go to the polling place for your home address in Illinois between 6 a.m.-7 p.m. If your registration is current and you don’t need to register on Election Day, you do not need to bring an ID.

How do I vote by mail?

Fill out an application for a vote by mail ballot (available on Dec. 18, 2019) online, mail a printed version of this form to your county election authority or apply in person with your election authority. The form must be filed with the election authority between Feb. 6, 2020 and March 12, 2020. Stamps can be found at your local post office, including the one in the ISU Memorial Union.

After your application has been approved, a ballot will be mailed to you. When you receive the ballot, fill it out and mail it back to the election office that sent it to you. Your ballot must be postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day! Please allow at least five days for mail delivery.

For more information, click here.

How do I vote early in person?

You can vote early with at your county election authority office or designated early voting location.

Click here to find early voting locations and dates that early voting is open.

I still have questions. Where can I look for more answers?

For more information on voting in Illinois as a college student, visit the Campus Vote Project or the Illinois State Board of Elections website.



Voting in Other States

If you are from a state other than Iowa, Minnesota or Illinois and wish to vote in that state, please click here to find more information about how to vote in your state.