Election season is always an exciting time, particularly in Iowa. During Presidential and mid-term elections, we often see heightened media coverage, increased voter outreach and an onslaught of information about the issues. But as candidates refine their messages and prepare for their debates, they are also analyzing voter trends to anticipate Election Day turnout. Some are surprised to find that, in Iowa, older voters may be their key to victory.
According to the State Data Center, more than 83 percent of all Iowans aged 65 or over were registered to vote in the 2016 election, and nearly one-third of all the ballots cast in 2016 came from older Iowans. This powerful voter block is both increasing in size and reliably turning out to vote, which is why it's so important for older adults to be aware of changes to Iowa's voting law for 2018.
One of the biggest changes this year is that Iowa now requires registered voters to show ID to vote. Identification is needed to show both who you are and where you reside, so showing a driver's license or a non-operator ID card with a current address is an ideal way to meet the requirement. However, there are several other acceptable documents that you can use to show proof of identity and residency (a complete list is available on the Iowa Secretary of State website). In addition, no voter will be turned away at the polls this year if they do not present identification; there will be an option to sign an oath of identity this year and cast a regular ballot.
Another change is that Iowa ballots will no longer have a straight party line voting option. Instead of checking a box for Republican or Democrat at the top of the ballot and having that carry across all races, individuals will have to check a box to vote for a candidate in any and all races in which they wish to vote.
To assist residents of long-term care facilities who wish to vote, the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman has developed a guide in partnership with the Secretary of State's Office to provide additional information about special accommodations made for voters living in nursing facilities. The guide is available to download, reproduce and share.
Hopefully, these tips and tools will make it easier for older Iowans to participate in the upcoming 2018 mid-term election and other local, state and federal elections going forward. For the most up-to-date information about voting in your community, including precinct locations, please check with your County Auditor.