Can I vote before Election Day?

Guest Column
Janine Sulzner
Jones Co. Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

What if I want to vote early, or don’t want to go to the polls on Election Day?

     Voters may receive a ballot prior to Election Day by voting early in the Auditor’s Office beginning 29 days prior to Election Day until 5 p.m. the day before Election Day. The office will also be open on Saturday, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 for voter convenience.

     Alternatively, voters may have a ballot mailed to them but ONLY after submitting a signed written application to the County Auditor. Ballots are NEVER sent to a voter until the Auditor has received a signed written request from the voter! Voters may even fax or e-mail the Auditor a copy of a written request that contains the voter’s signature, and the ballot can then be mailed right away; however, the voter must still mail the original signed application to the Auditor, otherwise their voted ballot may not be counted. The first day that ballots can be mailed to voters is Oct. 8, and the last day that ballots can be mailed to voters is Oct. 27. After Oct. 27, only in-person early/absentee voting at the Auditor’s Office is available. Voted ballots may be delivered to the Auditor’s Office before the polls close on Election Day. If they are mailed back to the Auditor, the envelope must be postmarked no later than the day before the election, and then received in the Auditor’s Office by Tuesday, Nov. 13 to be eligible for counting.

     There are special provisions for persons in healthcare facilities and for military and overseas voters.

     Any voter who votes before Election Day, whether by mail, at a care facility, or in-person at the Auditor’s Office, is considered an “absentee voter,” and the voter must seal their voted ballot in a special envelope provided by the Auditor. For the ballot to be eligible for counting the voter must read and sign the affidavit on the special envelope.

What are all these election forms I am getting in the mail?

     Candidates, political parties, and various advocacy groups are sending out unsolicited pre-printed absentee ballot request forms hoping that you will take advantage of the opportunity to vote early–and you may even receive more than one. Often those forms will come addressed to only one person in the household, and may or may not have correct information regarding the voter’s address. The County Auditor’s Office has no control over the activities of those groups. The Auditor’s Office does not send out absentee ballot request forms unless the voter has specifically asked us to.

     If you choose to use the forms sent by candidates or other groups verify that the pre-printed information is correct, add your contact information, and be sure to sign the form before mailing it to the Auditor’s Office to get your ballot.

How are absentee ballots counted, and how is my vote kept secret as my name and signature are on the ballot envelope?

     Voted absentee ballots are processed on Election Day by a bi-partisan team of election officials (Special Precinct Board) appointed and sworn to protect the secrecy of your ballot. The process the Special Precinct Board will follow includes:

     • Verify that each sealed affidavit envelope has a corresponding written application form on file. This is the last point at which an absentee ballot can be challenged.

     • Turn the ballot envelope face down and open the sealed affidavit envelope, then remove the secrecy envelope/folder containing the voted ballot (the secrecy envelope contains no voter identification information).

     • The secrecy envelope/folder still containing the voted ballot is thoroughly intermingled with all of the other secrecy envelopes/folders containing voted absentee ballots before any ballots are removed from the secrecy envelopes/folders. This is done to prevent any connection to any material identifying a ballot to a particular voter.

     • The ballots are then removed from the secrecy envelopes, the amount of ballots reconciled to the starting number, and then processed through the ballot tabulators by the bi-partisan Special Precinct Board. Steps 1, 2, and 3 may be performed by the Special Precinct Board on the day prior to the election, with the ballots stored securely until election day when they are removed from the secrecy envelopes and tabulated.

     • The voting results from the absentee ballots may never be released until the polls close at 9 p.m.

     Iowa’s election laws are very strict so as to protect the secrecy of each and every vote. All election officials, the county auditor, and the auditor’s staff, are required to take an oath of office to uphold those laws. Each of the political parties may appoint one person to observe the absentee process on Election Day, and the day before when applicable. These partisan observers may challenge an absentee ballot prior to the opening of the affidavit envelope, but they may not otherwise participate in the process.

     For more information regarding the Nov. 6 General Election in Jones County go to call 319 462-2282 e-mail


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