Where and how to vote early, and what has changed since Gov. Reynolds signed new voting restrictions into law

Paul Brennan/Little Village

Early voting for the Nov. 2 election began on Wednesday, as county auditors started mailing out absentee ballots requested by voters, and opened their offices for in-person early voting.

This is the first election since Gov. Kim Reynolds signed new restrictions on voting into law in March. Iowa was one of 19 Republican-controlled states to enact laws restricting voting this year in reaction to lies about 2020 election fraud promoted by Donald Trump and his supporters. None of those states — including Iowa — have produced any evidence of the widespread fraud they claim the new law will prevent.

One of the most notable provisions in SF 413, the voting restrictions bill Reynolds signed, cut the early voting period from 29 days to 20 days. But that change is far from the only one.

Below, you’ll find a Q&A explaining the how, where and when of early voting, as well as how SF 413 has changed things. But first, an important bit of information for most early voters: where to find your auditor’s office.

Johnson County Auditor
913 S Dubuque St
Iowa City, IA 52240

Linn County Elections
935 Second St SW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Now for Qs and some As.

I want an absentee ballot. How do I get one?

You have to fill out an absentee ballot request form and return to the auditor’s office. The deadline to submit a request form is Monday, Oct. 18. Your form must be received by your auditor’s office by 5 p.m. that day.

You can either pick up an absentee ballot request form at the auditor’s office or you can print out a request form from either the Johnson County or Linn County auditor’s website. You cannot request an absentee ballot online — a paper copy of the request form must be delivered to the auditor’s office either by hand or through the mail.

Linn County voters can also find absentee ballot request forms in the current issue of The Penny Saver.

What SF 413 changed: The new law prohibits county auditors from sending an absentee ballot request form to a voter unless the voter specially requests one. In last year’s general election, many county auditors, as well as the Iowa Secretary of State, sent out request forms to all active voters, which helped drive the record-setting turnout.

After I receive my absentee ballot in the mail, then what?

Fill it out following the instructions, and put it in the mail, return it by hand to the auditor’s office or deposit it in an official ballot dropbox.

The Johnson County voters can find their dropbox on the south side of the Johnson County Administration Building at 913 S Dubuque St in Iowa City. In Linn County, there is a dropbox at 823 3rd St SW, Cedar Rapids, near the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center.

A mail-in absentee ballot must be received by the time polls close on Election Day, and ballots deposited in a dropbox need to be there when the polls close in order to be counted. The polls will close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.

What SF 413 changed: First, it changed when polls close on Election Day, cutting things short by an hour. Previously, people had until 9 p.m. to vote.

It also changed who can mail an absentee ballot or put it in a dropbox. Besides the voter who filled out the ballot, only a member of that person’s immediate family, a member of their household or an authorized election official could put another’s sealed ballot envelope in a drop box or mail it. If a neighbor, a friend or a cousin who doesn’t live with the voter did it to be helpful, they could be charged with a crime.

Also, every county is now limited to just one ballot dropbox.

The drop box set up outside the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids. Aug. 26, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

I want to vote early in person. Where do I go?

You can vote early at your auditor’s office between Wednesday, Oct. 13 and Monday, Nov. 1, weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In Johnson County there is also a drive-through option for early voting.

Like last year, the drive-through early voting location is the parking ramp at the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building, 855 S Dubuque St, Iowa City. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, from Oct. 13 to Nov. 1. There will also be special weekend voting hours — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — on Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31.

Both counties will have satellite locations to accommodate early voters.

In Johnson County:

Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St on Monday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Solon Community High School, 600 W Fifth St, Friday, Oct. 22, from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Kingdom Apostolic Community Worship Center, 611 Southgate Ave, Sunday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Old Capitol Town Center, 201 S Clinton St, Tuesday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

North Liberty Community Library, 520 W Cherry St, Saturday, Oct. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Iowa City Public Library, 123 S Linn St, Saturday, Oct. 30 from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 31, from noon to 4 p.m.

Coralville Public Library, 1401 Fifth St, Sunday, Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In Linn County:

Lindale Mall, 4444 First Ave NE (adjacent to the Children’s Play Area at the east end of the mall), Wednesday, Oct. 13 through Sunday, Oct. 31, from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Wellington Heights Church, 600 4th Ave SE, Saturday, Oct. 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

IBEW Local 405 Hall, 1211 Wiley Blvd SW, Sunday, Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

What SF 413 changed: In addition to cutting the number of days available for early voting, Iowa’s new elections law also changed how satellite voting locations are selected. Instead of allowing a county auditor to choose sites based on previous voter turnout and availability and suitability of spaces, as was previously the case, satellite locations can now only be set up in response to a petition signed by 100 registered voters. The voters must specify the site for the satellite voting location in the petition.

Cars in line for early voting at the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building parking ramp, Oct. 5, 2020. — Paul Brennan/Little Village

Do I need ID to vote?

Yes. Whether you are voting early or waiting until Election Day, you will need to show your Iowa driver’s license or one of the following forms of ID.

• Iowa Non-Operator ID
• Iowa Voter Identification Card
• U.S. Military ID or Veteran ID
• U.S. Passport
• Tribal ID Card/Document

If a voter doesn’t have one of the acceptable forms of ID, another registered voter who does can attest to the ID-less voter’s identity. The voter without ID can then cast a provisional ballot.

What SF 413 changed: Nothing. The voter ID requirements were pushed through by Republican legislators in 2017, and signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad. Backers of the ID requirement, like the backer of SF 413, claimed it was necessary to prevent voter fraud, even though they acknowledged voter fraud was not a problem in Iowa.

SF 413 did make other changes to elections, however, including making it easier to remove people from voter rolls, and harder for third-party candidates to get on the ballot for statewide and federal races. The bill also criminalized possible errors made by local election officials, making them punishable by large fines and up to five years in prison.

The day after Reynolds signed SF 413 into law, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have most new restrictions overturned. The case has not yet gone to trial.

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