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Election and voting resources from state, U.S. and world organizations.

How To Vote

Cartoon image of envelope entering a mailbox with the word VOTE written on the side


Are You Eligible?

To be eligible to vote in the U.S. General Elections you must:

  • Be a U.S. Citizen
  • Meet your state's residency requirements
  • Be 18 years old on or before Election Day
  • Be registered by your state's registration deadline*

(Who Can and Can’t Vote in U.S. Elections)

To check if you are registered to vote in the state of Iowa click here.

*There are a number of other factors that can impact your eligibility to vote and that vary from state to state. These include whether you have a felony arrest record or are mentally incapacitated.

Choose Your Voting Method

A common picture of voting in the U.S. General Elections is of heading to a local polling station on the first Tuesday of November, waiting in line to pick up your ballot packet, walking to a private voting booth to pencil in your preferred candidates, and then dropping off the ballot packet before heading out the door with an "I Voted" sticker. While this is one method to cast your vote, it's important to keep in mind that there are other methods as well. You'll want to figure out which voting option suits your needs best before you start taking the steps to cast your vote using that method.

The general ways of voting in U.S. Federal election are:

  • Voting in person
  • Voting by mail


What is voting in-person and why choose that method?

To vote in person, you'll arrive at your polling station with a valid form of ID* and fill out your ballot before dropping it in the same location. The location for your polling place is determined by the address of your residency. You can find the location of your polling place through your state election office, which can be found using this website.

Voting in person is not just reserved for the Election Day. In almost every state you can vote in person days or weeks before November 3rd. You do not need any excuse to vote early. To find out the specific rules for your state, you can reference this page produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures: State Laws Governing Early Voting. In Iowa, you can vote in-person as early as 29 days before the Election Day. Two important reasons for why some voters choose to vote in-person are for increased accessibility for those with disabilities and for access to interpreters at the polling locations. (Voting On Election Day) If you are someone with special needs for in-person voting like these, it will be especially important to pay attention to stay up-to-date on changes to polling station locations and services that have happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

* Acceptable forms of ID in the state of Iowa for in-person voting include:

  • Paycheck that shows your Current Name and Address
  • Current and Valid Photo ID
  • Utility Bill
  • Bank Statement
  • Government Check
  • Government Issued Document that shows your Current Name and Address


What is voting by mail and why choose that method?

To vote by mail, you will either request an absentee ballot or will be automatically sent one, fill out the ballot completely, and either send it through mail or drop it off at a ballot drop-off location. How you receive a ballot, where you drop it off, and what the deadlines are for this method can vary widely from state to state and between different localities. Many states have also updated their rules around mail-in-voting this year because of the pandemic. Because of this, if you are going to vote using this method, you will need to plan ahead so that you have all of the information you need.

Every state offers some form of mail in voting. Some states require an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot, while others, particularly this year during the pandemic allow all of their citizens to vote without an excuse. In some states, you are automatically sent a ballot or a form to request one. Many voter information sites offer details that will guide you through the process of obtaining an absentee ballot if you would like one, including U.S. Vote Foundation and The University of Iowa's Hawk the Vote.

In Iowa to vote with an absentee ballot, you need to fill out a registration form to request a ballot. This can form can be found on the Iowa Secretary of State page. You need to do this by 5:00 p.m. 10 days before the general election. A picture of the registration form can be found on the left of this page. If you are away from your place of residence and would like to vote using an absentee ballot but in-person, you can do this at a county auditors office as early as 29 days before the election and as late as the Election Day (or until 11:00 a.m. if polls do not open until 12:00 p.m. on Election Day in the county). There are also provisions for obtaining an absentee ballot if you are a member of the military, are an Iowa citizen living overseas, or resides in a healthcare facility. The steps to vote in these cases can be found at the Iowa Secretary of State page.

Video Guides for Voting in Every State

Welcome to How To Vote In Every State 2020, a YouTube channel with everything you need to know to vote in each of the 50 states! This year How To Vote is part of the MediaWise Voter Project! MediaWise is a nonprofit, nonpartisan project of the Poynter Institute and supported by Facebook. Complexly is an MVP partner, as are Campus Vote Project and Students Learn, Students Vote.