2021 Election Law Changes

The information provided is a quick reference to recent election law changes and is not a substitute for the election laws.

Iowa State Association of County Auditors' 2021 Election Law Changes (PDF)

Linn County's 2021 New in Iowa Election Law (PDF)

Last Updated July 27, 2021

Voter Registration Changes

The pre-registration deadline is now 5 p.m. 15 days before Election Day.

This is a change from 10/11 days before Election Day.

Absentee Voting (Mail and In-person) Changes

Absentee Voting by Mail

The Auditor’s Office can start expecting absentee ballot request forms 70 days before Election Day.

Previously the Auditor’s Office could accept absentee ballot request forms 120 days before Election Day. 

Absentee ballots must be physically received on Election Day by 8 p.m. CST by the Auditor’s Office.

Before absentee ballots could have been received up until the canvass of votes typically the following Monday or Tuesday.

In-person Absentee Voting (Early Voting)

In-person absentee voting will start 20 days before Election Day.

This is a change from 29 days before Election Day.

The voter must complete his/her absentee ballot request form. Using preprinted labels are no longer acceptable under current election laws.

Previously, the auditor’s office could generate a label to complete an absentee ballot request form.

Who Can Return a Voted Ballot?

People who may return a voted mail absentee ballot on the behalf of the voter:

  • Member of the same household
  • Voter’s immediate family members
  • Caretaker serving for the voter

For blind and disabled voters only: A Delivery Agent designated on form that must be returned in person with the absentee ballot. The Delivery Agent can return only return two ballots, and cannot be an agent of the voter's employer or union or of a political party, campaign or committee.

Previously anyone could have return a voted mail absentee ballot to the Auditor’s Office.

County Ballot Drop Box

A county does not have to supply a ballot drop box.

The county can only provide a ballot drop box to be located at the Auditor’s Office. The drop box is intended for voted ballots only.

The drop box can only be available once absentee ballots are mailed (20 days before Election Day).

If a drop box is provided, then the drop box must be:

  • Under recorded video surveillance.
  • Securely mounted to a stationary surface or an immovable object.
  • Locked and sealed with a tamper evident seal.
  • Emptied at least four times a day by Auditor’s staff with a log of who and when absentee ballots are removed from the ballot drop box.

Returned Absentee Ballot Received without a Signature on the Affidavit/Return Envelope

The Auditor’s Office will notify the voter within 24 hours of receiving the unsigned envelope. The notice will include information on how to correct the error or other opportunities to vote before Election Day.

Election Day

Polls will close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.

This is a change from 9 p.m. for primary, general election and any special election with partisan offices on the ballot.

When a polling place changes location before an election, voters will be mailed a notice informing the voter of the change. The notice cannot be mailed more than 20 days or fewer than 7 days before Election Day.

Language was added to define when and who should receive the notice.

A voter may requesting assistance may select anyone to assist them. However, the voter may not receive assistance from their employer, union representative or any candidate on the ballot.

Language was added to discourage a candidate on the ballot from assisting a voter. 

Any voter that does not have two consecutive hours off work while polls are open (7 a.m. – 8 p.m.) is entitled to take two hours to vote on Election Day. Time off request from for Election Day needs to be requested individually and prior to Election Day.

Local law enforcement and the state patrol may take action to prevent violations to Iowa Code Chapter §50 related to the canvassing of votes.

No Activity Notices

Voters who do not participate in a November General Election during even numbered years, will be made inactive and sent a “No Activity” notice.

Sample of the No Activity Notice (PDF)

A voter who receives the No Activity notice can simply complete and return the postage paid postcard to update their registration.

Inactive status means our office has sent you a piece of election mail and it has been returned to our office by the post office or a third party or the voter has not participated in the last general election. 

Inactive voters may still vote in the normal manner on Election Day. Once vote credit is given to an inactive voter in the voter registration database, the voter will be made active and a new voter registration ID/acknowledgement card will be mailed.

For more information, please refer to our website.