Important Voter File Maintenance Mailing This Week
If you get a voter card at your home for someone who doesn’t live there, don’t throw it away! This week, the Secretary of State’s office will mail cards to Iowa voters who have had no activity in the last four years, and we need the public’s help to keep the voter rolls up to date.
This annual "Four Year No Activity" mailing is required by law. It is very important that you check the box that applies, make notes if needed, sign the card – we can’t make any changes unless you sign it! – and return it to our office.
The Four Year No Activity card is different than a regular voter card. A sample is attached.
The law is designed to make it hard to cancel someone’s voter registration without their knowledge. No one’s registration is cancelled simply for not voting. Since the National Voter Registration Act, better known as "Motor Voter," took effect in 1995, the cancellation process depends on whether or not you can get mail at your address.
A Four Year No Activity card is not a cancellation of your voter registration. It’s simply a double-check and a reminder. Cards are sent to all voters who have not:
- Voted in any election
- Registered or re-registered to vote
- Updated their address or any other information
If your card is returned to our office as undeliverable, or returned and signed by someone saying you no longer live there, we can then begin the process of cancellation.
In February, the Secretary of State also sent notices to voters who have reported an address change to the Postal Service.
IF your Four Year No Activity card is returned to our office as undeliverable:
Your voter registration record will placed on inactive status. This is a preliminary step to cancellation.
Voters remain on the rolls with inactive status through two general elections. If you try to vote, you will be asked to update your registration. You will then be returned to active status.
Voters inactivated in 2019 will be cancelled after the 2022 general election. Records that were inactive through 2016 and 2018 were cancelled earlier this year.
If you get a card for someone who doesn’t live at your address:
Indicate on the reply card that the person does not live at your address, sign the card, and return it to our office. We can then place the person on inactive status. However, we can’t completely cancel the registration without the voter’s own signature unless:
- we get notice from another community that the voter has registered there;
- we get notice that the voter has died or been convicted of a felony; or
- the voter has been on inactive status through two general elections
If the card is not returned, the law requires us to assume that the person still lives there. We may not get a chance to take them off the rolls for another four years. (Political campaigns will also assume the person still lives there, so you’ll probably get mailings and phone calls.)
If the person is a family member or someone you know, please contact them and encourage them to contact our office. It’s not that we don’t believe you – we just have to follow the law.
If you get a Four Year No Activity card for yourself and your address is correct:
You don’t have to do anything. The fact that you got the card indicates that you are still registered with Active status.
If you get a Four Year No Activity card and the address is incorrect:
Check the box marked "I am the person named above but I no longer live at the address listed." Fill in your new street address and sign the card.
If your new address is in the same county, your voter registration record will be updated and you will receive a new voter card. This will show up as activity on your voter registration record.
If your new address is outside the county or state, your voter registration will be cancelled. IMPORTANT: This does not register you to vote in your new community! You will need to re-register at your new address.
- Addresses for all county auditors in Iowa (Iowa Secretary of State)
- Information on voter registration in other states
The law is designed to make it hard to cancel someone’s voter registration without their knowledge. This is a good thing but it has some unintended consequences that make certain voters especially hard to inactivate and cancel:
- Young adults who have moved away from their parent’s home. If the mail carrier keeps delivering mail to the parent’s address, our office has no way of knowing the young adult has moved away, and we have to assume they still live there. Parents can sign the card and indicate their adult child has moved away, and this will allow us to place them on inactive status. However, we will not be able to completely cancel the registration without the voter’s own signature.
- Large group housing such as dorms, fraternity/sorority houses, and apartment buildings. It’s very important for the new residents to sign and return the cards so we can inactivate the former residents. Our office has contacted University Housing and the Fraternity and Sorority Life office and they will be cooperating with our office on this mailing.
- Elderly voters who have moved to care centers. Unfortunately, if the person is no longer able to sign the card and indicate they no longer wish to vote, we cannot cancel their registration. Iowa law specifically excludes the use of power of attorney for voting and election matters.
Please contact your county auditor with any questions.
Johnson County Auditor 319-356-6004
Linn County Auditor 319-892-5300