Voting 101: I’m a college student not living at home. How do I vote in Iowa?

Voting 101: I’m a college student not living at home. How do I vote in Iowa?

First lady Jill Biden speaks during a visit to Des Moines Area Community College, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By Amie Rivers

June 13, 2024

Q. I’m going to college in another city/state this fall. Can I still vote in Iowa?

A. Yes, you can! You just need to be 18 years old by the time of the election, and register with your home address in Iowa. (And make sure you’re ONLY voting in Iowa, of course.)

If you’re going to college in Iowa but in a different town, you can choose which Iowa address to vote from. Again, only choose one!

Here are two ways you can vote, depending on if you’ll be home on Nov. 5 or not:

Going home Nov. 5? Vote in person

If you’re not already, register to vote by using your home address in Iowa.

  • The easy A: If you have a valid Iowa driver’s license or nondriver identification, register online here.
  • No Iowa ID? Print off this form, fill it out, and mail it to your county auditor’s office (find that address here). Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to register—at least 15 days before the election.
  • The slacker: If you forget to register in advance, you can also register at the polls, but there are extra steps involved with this, like providing proof of residency.

Then, on Nov. 5, 2024, simply show up to the polls and vote! Find your polling place here.

Not going home? Vote absentee

Pesky things like studying at college keeping you from coming home before the holidays? Request an absentee ballot be sent to you.

If you’re not already registered, do one of the first two steps noted above. But do it soon, because you have to be officially registered as a voter before you can request an absentee ballot.

Once that’s done, request an absentee ballot. Here’s how to do that:

Fill out this absentee ballot request form here, and mail it back to your county auditor’s office at least 15 days before the election. (We recommend doing this as soon as possible, since you can’t predict when mail will arrive.)

You won’t get a ballot back right away. By law, county auditors can’t send you an absentee ballot in the mail any sooner than 20 days before an election. Expect it in your mailbox around mid-October.

Once you get your ballot, read all the instructions, fill it out, and send it back right away. Again, we recommend this because mail delivery can be unpredictable, and Iowa lawmakers have mandated that ballots must reach the auditor’s office by Election Day—postmarks now no longer matter.

Then, track your absentee ballot using this tool from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office to give you peace of mind that your vote was counted.


  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.


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