Election law changes for Iowa voters

Guest column
Whitney Hein
Jones Co. Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

     The 2021 Iowa Legislature session passed several changes to Iowa’s election law. With the upcoming city and school election on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, there are several important date and time changes that will affect Iowa voters. Many changes involve absentee voting. If you plan to vote by absentee ballot this coming fall, it is very important that you follow all the new dates and guidelines set forth by the state.

     The first day a voter can submit an absentee ballot request (ABR) form to the county auditor is 70 days before an election or on Aug. 24, 2021, for the city and school election this fall. The last day an ABR form can be submitted to the county auditor in order for a ballot to be mailed to you is Oct. 18, 2021 at 5 p.m. Remember to sign and date your ABR form or it will not be valid. There are exceptions to this ABR form deadline if you are admitted to a healthcare facility, dementia-specific assisted living program, or hospital 14 or fewer days before the election. If a voter qualifies for an exception, they must call the auditor’s office no later than 4 p.m. on Election Day to request an absentee ballot.

     The Secretary of State cannot send out ABR forms unless directed to do so by the state legislature. The county auditor cannot send out ABR form unless a voter requests one. Candidates, political groups, and other private organizations may send out ABR forms, but may not pre-fill any fields except for type and date of election.

     The first day the county auditor can send an absentee ballot in the mail is 20 days before the election or on Oct. 13, 2021, for the city and school election this fall. The mailing window is very short with the last day for the county auditor to send out an absentee ballot being 15 days before the election, or on Oct. 18, 2021.

     Absentee ballots must be received by the county auditor by 8 p.m. on Election Day (Nov. 2, 2021). Postmarks will no longer make a ballot valid if received after Election Day. There are two exceptions for the Safe at Home program and for uniformed and overseas citizens. Ballots from these groups must be in the county auditor’s office by noon on Monday following the election.

     The only people that may return a voted absentee ballot other than the voter is someone living in the voter’s household, an immediate family member, or two special precinct election officials who deliver a ballot to the resident of a healthcare facility, dementia-specific assisted living program, or hospital. Voters who are unable to return a ballot due to blindness or other disability may use a delivery agent to deliver their ballots. Instructions on delivery agent requirements will be included with each absentee ballot.

     Please remember that the return absentee ballot affidavit envelope must be signed by the voter. If a voter fails to sign the return affidavit envelope, the county auditor will contact the voter. The voter may then request a replacement ballot and return it by 8 p.m. on Election Day, vote at the polls on Election Day, or appear in person to the county auditor’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day and sign the affidavit.

     In-person absentee voting at the county auditor’s office will begin 20 days before the election, or on Oct. 13, 2021, for the city and school election.

     The absentee voting period is shortened due to these law changes. Make sure to plan ahead and get your ballot returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

     Please contact the Jones County Auditor’s Office at 319-462-2282 with any questions. Information can also be found on the Jones County Election website at jonescountyiowaelections.gov.


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