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REGISTERING TO VOTE: Why It's Important to Do It Early!

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Written by Ken Kline, Cerro Gordo County Auditor

Since the implementation of Election Day registration in 2008, an increasing number of Iowans have taken advantage of its convenience, and a question many voters ask is, “Why register early?  I can do it on Election Day.” 

Like other Iowa county auditors, I take pride in registering voters and administering elections in a state that has a tradition of fair and impartial elections.  I encourage eligible Iowans to preregister for the presidential election, if possible, and to take advantage of registering at the polls, if necessary.

There are benefits in registering early for the November 8 election.  First, it’s relatively easy; a voter can fill out a Voter Registration form, available at county auditors’ offices, or download a fillable voter registration form.  Another easy option is the new online voter registration system from the Iowa Secretary of State. 

Another benefit of registering early is a faster check-in at the polls.  Even with the Precinct Atlas computerized register used in 60 counties, registering at the polls will take a few extra minutes.  In counties that still process votes on paper, this can take more than ten minutes.

A voter registering on Election Day may encounter risks that would be avoided by registering early, due mainly to the higher standards for proof of identity and residency required for Election Day registration.  Problems can include an expired driver’s license or other photo ID or a driver’s license with an old address, requiring a separate proof of residence.  Another problem can occur when a voter registers at an address that is not currently in the county auditor’s address library.  Another is the need for a voter to cast a provisional ballot when the voter lacks proper proof, or the voter’s eligibility is in question.  

Some voters can face a major issue if their names are on the statewide list of felons.  Because of inaccuracies in this list, some voters have been improperly disenfranchised and prevented from voting.  Others have been prosecuted for voting in counties that don’t use the Precinct Atlas computerized register. 

Registering on or before Saturday, October 29th will help to avoid problems and better assure an eligible voter his or her vote will count in the 2016 presidential election.  You can find out more about Election Day voting - including videos on registering to vote -  on the Secretary of State's website.