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.

Help iconThe Catt Center is hosting a help table in the Memorial Union this fall to help answer students’ questions about registering to vote and voting absentee by mail. Look for our table on the first floor by the west stairwell from 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 & 25.

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 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

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)


How Do I Register to Vote?

You may already be registered! Iowa residents can check to see if they are already registered here: 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 that you voted in Iowa.

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.

You must update your voter registration if you:

  • Change your name
  • Change your address (including moving to a different campus residence)
  • Change party affiliation

Voter Registration Process in Iowa (video)


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 15 days before the election in which you wish to vote. 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. You should receive your voter registration card from your county auditor within two weeks.

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.

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.”
AccessPlus doesn’t work on my phone!

Proof of identity for Election Day registrants must be a photo ID that is current, valid and contains an expiration date. You can use any one of the following:

  • 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 cards IF the cards include 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. 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.

Absentee Voting in Iowa (video)

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


Do I need an ID to vote?


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 8 p.m.

Iowa voters are required to show an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, U.S. passport, U.S. military ID or veteran’s ID, tribal ID/document or Iowa voter ID card at the polls before they vote. 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.

How do I vote absentee by mail?

A registered voter may submit a State of Iowa Official Absentee Ballot Request Form to their 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 encourage you to provide your phone number and/or email address in the event the county auditor needs to confirm any information on the request form.

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.

After 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.

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 20 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.

In-person absentee voting is not available on Election Day at the auditor’s office 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.

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.

Upcoming Elections

Date Election
Oct. 10, 2023 City Primary Election
Nov. 7, 2023 City and School Regular Election
Dec. 5, 2023 City Runoff (if necessary)
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

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