Do you have questions about how to vote in the upcoming election? Here are some common questions and the answers to help you rock the vote.
What are midterm elections?
Midterm elections are national elections that happen in the middle of a presidential term. So if presidential elections happen in 2020, 2024, and 2028, midterm elections will happen in 2022, 2026, and 2030. During these elections, we elect members of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, in addition to many state and local elections that could also appear on a ballot. Traditionally, voter turn-out at midterm elections is lower than the turn-out during a presidential election, probably because the presidential elections include a lot of razzle-dazzle, but don’t be fooled! So many elections happen during midterms, elections that are equally important and elections that make a difference in your life every day.
Okay, I get it, I should vote, but how do I register to vote?
If you are going to be 18 on election day, are a US citizen, and an Iowa resident – you can register to vote online! You can also register by filling out a registration form, or stopping into your county courthouse and speaking with someone in the auditor’s office. Not sure if you are registered? Check here.
The best news is that you can also do same-day voter registration in Iowa. You just need to go to your voting location (called a precinct or polling place) and you will need to have an ID with your correct home address on it. If you don’t have that you can bring in a residential lease, utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government check with your current address on it too. Finally, if you have none of those things, a registered voter from your precinct may attest and sign an oath swearing that you live in that precinct.
It’s impossible to NOT vote if you really want to. Unless you are a felon. Then you can’t vote.
Where do I go to vote?
Ahhh, this is super confusing and it depends on what election you are voting in. The best place to find out where you vote is here, just type in your name and zip and it will tell you all of your election locations. For the midterm elections, you vote at your “General Election” polling place. Make sure to bring your driver’s license or other valid ID or you won’t be able to vote without it!
For these midterms, Iowa’s polls will be open from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. The goal is to give every eligible voter an opportunity to go vote. Typically, in Iowa, we are pretty lucky, the lines won’t be too long for you to go in and vote. It has never taken me longer than 15 minutes to vote. That is thanks to our county auditors and the poll workers. Make sure to give them a smile and be understanding if it takes a bit longer during rush hour. They want to make sure voting is fair and all the rules are applied.
There is also the opportunity to vote before an election by mail-in ballot or by going to the auditor’s office, this is called “absentee voting.” You can go into the auditor’s office during regular business hours any day before election day. To get a mail-in ballot, you have to request one before the cut off day, which is typically about 2 weeks out from the election. You can request an absentee ballot here.
What will be on my ballot?
This is one of the best things you can do (besides register!) before you go to vote. Check out who is on your ballot so you can make an informed decision. Now that you know your polling place, you can go to your county auditor’s website to find the exact same ballot you will be voting on. Google search “Your County Auditor Your State.” So, if you live in Council Bluffs, you will search “Pottawattamie County Auditor Iowa” and find your county’s election website. You should be able to find sample ballots on that website.
Take some time to research the candidates and their platforms. Not sure where to start? Google them! If you are completely new to elections and politics, you can begin to figure out your political views on these websites, which I find very helpful and informative!
Pew Research Center Political Party Quiz
Who is in charge of elections?
In Iowa, our Secretary of State (currently Paul Pate) is in charge of voter registration and elections. At the local level, your county auditor is responsible for actually running polling places, helping people register to vote, registering the people running in elections, counting ballots, and announcing how many votes each candidate got. They make decisions about how people vote, when they vote, and what they need to vote. A recent decision in Iowa was to require everyone to bring a valid ID to vote in elections. It used to be that if you had preregistered to vote, all you had to do was verify some information about yourself in order to vote. These are all decisions to either help more people vote or protect the process and keep our elections fair.
Do you have other questions?
Feel free to email Ms. Sieck at [email protected] or call the Iowa voter hotline at 1-888-SOS-VOTE.