Voting FAQs

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.

Why is voting important? Student voting engagement intern and Andrew Goodman Foundation Ambassador Alyssa Rodriguez has a message for young voters about that: Why Vote?

Upcoming events
Ames School Board Candidate Forum: Oct. 4, 7 p.m., Ames Public Library
Ames City Council Candidate Forum: Oct. 18, 7 p.m., Ames Public library
Iowa Caucus Forum: November 16, 7 p.m., Ames Public Library

Satellite (early voting) opportunities (for Story County voters only)
Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 at Ames Pubic Library, with hours TBA

The Catt Center is dedicated to providing voter resources for students to promote civic engagement at Iowa State University. The 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 and U.S. Territories
Information on Candidates
ISU Student Voting Rates – 2020 NSLVE Campus Report (PDF)
ISU Student Voting Rates – 2022 NSLVE Campus Report (PDF)

Voting in Iowa

Am I already registered to vote in Iowa?
What does “inactive” voter status mean?
How do I register to vote?
How do I vote?
Upcoming elections
2021 Election Law Changes for Iowa Voters (PDF)
Voting in Iowa: Names and Gender Issues (PDF)
Election Security in Iowa (PDF)

Am I already registered to vote in Iowa?

You may be! Iowa residents can check to see if they are already registered by visiting

It is important to check your voter registration status at least one month prior to an election to ensure it has not changed since the last time you voted in Iowa.

You MUST update your voter registration if you:

  1. Change your name
  2. Change your address (including moving to a different campus or Ames residence)
  3. Change party affiliation


What does “inactive” voter status mean?

In 2021, the Iowa legislature passed a bill requiring voters who did not vote in the most recent general election to be marked as “inactive.” Previously, voters had to miss two consecutive general elections to be considered inactive. Voters marked inactive in 2023 are still registered to vote and can vote in any election through 2026.

If you registered to vote in Iowa prior to the 2022 general election, but you didn’t vote in the 2022 election and you haven’t updated your voter registration since then, you should have received a “No Activity” notice from the secretary of state’s office at the address on your voter registration (see sample notice).

You can return your registration to active status by doing any one of these:

  • Completing and returning the postage-paid postcard included with the No Activity notice
  • Voting in any election in Iowa (in person or absentee)
  • Updating your voter registration by the 2026 general election (Nov. 3, 2026)

If inactive voters do not do one of these things, their Iowa voter registration will be canceled after the November 2026 election and they will have to re-register to vote in Iowa.

To check your voter registration status, visit

How do I register to vote?

In Iowa, you can register to vote before Election Day or at the polls on Election Day. It is much easier and highly recommended to register before Election Day.

Voter Registration Process in Iowa (video)

Registering before Election Day (highly recommended)

To register before Election Day, you may:

  1. 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 15 days before the election in which you wish to vote.
    Please remember:

    • Make sure you sign the form!
    • Allow at least five days for mail delivery.
    • If you are registering in Story County, no postage is required.

    You should receive your voter registration card from your county auditor within two weeks. This card is required at the polls if you do not have an Iowa’s driver’s license or non-operator ID. If you do have an Iowa’s driver license or non-operator ID, your voter registration card is not required at the polls and is instead for informational use only (polling location, ID requirements).

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


Registering on Election Day

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 contain your name and address, be current within 45 days, and be one of the following:

  • Residential lease (term of lease must be current)
  • Utility bill (electric, water, cable, cell phone, etc.)
  • Bank statement
  • Paycheck
  • Government check
  • Other government document
  • Property tax statement
  • AccessPlus account > Student tab > “Voter Reg Address” option (if AccessPlus does not work on your phone, try these fixes)

Proof of identity must be a photo ID that is current, valid, and contains an expiration date. Any of the following will work:

  • Iowa driver’s license
  • Iowa non-operator ID
  • Out-of-state driver’s license or non-operator ID
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. military or veteran ID
  • Employer ID card
  • Tribal ID
  • High school or college ID card IF the card includes a photo and expiration date. If your Iowa State ID was issued before June 1, 2020, it CANNOT be used as proof of identity at the polls because it does not include an expiration date. New IDs can be purchased at 0530 Beardshear Hall.

Please note that proof of address may be shown in electronic format (i.e., AccessPlus) but proof of ID cannot.

How Do I Vote?

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

Absentee Voting in Iowa (video)

What Iowa Voters Need to Know on Election Day (video)

Do I need an ID to vote?

Yes. Iowa voters are required to show an ID when voting in person (either absentee in person or at the polls).

Valid forms of identification include:

  • Iowa voter ID card
  • Iowa driver’s license
  • Iowa non-operator ID
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. military ID or veteran’s ID
  • Tribal ID/document

A voter without one of these forms of ID may have their identity attested to by another registered voter in the precinct. Voters without the necessary ID or an attester will be offered a provisional ballot and can provide ID up until the Monday after Election Day for primary and general elections.

Please visit the Iowa secretary of state’s Voter ID FAQ for more information on voter ID requirements.

Voting absentee by mail

You may submit a State of Iowa Official Absentee Ballot Request Form to your county auditor starting 70 days before an election. The request form must be received by the county auditor no later than 5:00 p.m. 15 days before the election (please allow at least five days for mail delivery). We recommend providing your phone number and/or email address in the event the county auditor needs to confirm any information on the request form. The auditor’s office will then mail you an absentee ballot.

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.

After receiving and completing your ballot, follow the instructions included with the ballot to return it in the postage-paid return envelope. In Iowa, absentee ballots are counted and tabulated on Election Day.

Note: On Oct. 14, 2022, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate informed county auditors that returning a mailed absentee ballot at a satellite location was contrary to his interpretation of the Code of Iowa. Voters may spoil a mailed absentee ballot at the satellite station and be issued another absentee ballot at the satellite station. Please call the Iowa secretary of state at 515-285-0145 with questions.

Voting absentee in person at the auditor’s office

You may cast an absentee ballot in person at your county auditor’s office starting 20 days before the election. You must cast the ballot at the auditor’s office; you cannot take it home. All absentee ballots are counted and tabulated on Election Day. Don’t forget your voter ID!

In-person absentee voting is not available on Election Day unless the polls open at noon. If the polls open at noon, you may cast an absentee ballot at the county auditor’s office from 8-11 a.m. on Election Day.

Voting absentee in person at a satellite voting station

Some county auditors host satellite voting locations where voters can cast an absentee ballot in person before Election Day. All absentee ballots are counted and tabulated on Election Day. Don’t forget your voter ID!

To find out if your county auditor is hosting a satellite voting station, contact your local county auditor’s office.

Voting 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 8 p.m. Don’t forget your voter ID!

Upcoming Elections

Date Election
Oct. 10, 2023 City Primary Election (for cities with primary elections)
Nov. 7, 2023 City and School Regular Election
Dec. 5, 2023 City Runoff (if necessary)
Jan. 15, 2024 Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus
June 4, 2024 Federal, State and County Primary Election
Nov. 5, 2024 Federal, State and County General Election


Voting in Other States and U.S. Territories

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

Citizens from Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands can register to vote in Iowa (and vote for president quadrennially). Residents of American Samoa are not eligible to vote for president unless they go through the naturalization process.

Information for voters from the territories can be found here:
Puerto Rico:
U.S. Virgin Islands:
American Samoa:
Northern Mariana Islands:


Information on Candidates

To find nonpartisan information about candidates, visit these resources: