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 Other States
Information on Candidates


Voting in Iowa

How do I register to vote?
How do I vote?

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. The deadline for pre-registration for the November 3, 2020 general election is October 24, 2020.

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
  • Employer ID card
  • Tribal ID
  • Veteran’s ID
  • Iowa State student ID card issued after June 1, 2020

If your Iowa State ID was issued before June 1, 2020, it CANNOT be used as proof of identity at the polls. You may get a new ID card at the ISU Card Office in 0530 Beardshear Hall, but there might be a charge.

Proof of address may be shown in electronic format but proof of ID cannot.

How do I vote?

You can vote in person on Election Day, absentee in person (early voting) at the county auditor’s office or at a satellite voting station, or by absentee ballot by mail.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Story County auditor is encouraging voters to apply for absentee ballots for the November 3, 2020 general election.

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. Only Iowa State IDs issued after June 1, 2020, may be used as an 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 (Oct. 24, 2020). 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.

Please note that absentee ballots cannot be forwarded. If you move before your receive your ballot, please CALL your county auditor to either cancel the ballot or have a new one issued.

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.


Voting in Other States

If you are from another state and wish to vote in that state, please check the state student guides at Campus Vote Project for information about voting in your state.


Information on Candidates

Nonpartisan information about candidates can be found at Project Vote Smart, Ballotpedia, the League of Women Voters, and Politics 1.