How to vote in a pandemic


Photo submitted to the Simpsonian

by Alyssa Craven, Editor-in-Chief

For many college students, Nov. 3 will be the first time they will be able to participate in a presidential election; however, COVID-19 has made voting a bit more challenging.

Vote Everywhere at Simpson College has been working to help make sure that students are informed on how to vote.

The first thing students need to do is to make sure they are registered to vote. Students can choose to register at Simpson College or at their home address. Depending on what state the student lives in, rules for registration and voting may be different.

“It’s preferable that students register as soon as possible,” said Elise Sturgeon, lead Andrew Goodman Foundation ambassador and co-chair of Vote Engagement Committee for the Culver Public Policy Center. “In the state of Iowa, we have pre-registration and same-day registration.”

For students registering two weeks before the election or earlier, they only need an Iowa state-issued ID or their social security number. For students trying to register less than two weeks before the election, students will have to do same-day registration.

“For same-day registration, students need both a proof of identity like a driver’s license, passport or military ID and a proof of residence,” Sturgeon said. “For students registering at their campus address, this is your student housing agreement you can get from student development, for students registering at home this is some type of mail with their name and address on it.”

Students can go to the IowaDot website for the voter registration form. The Andrew Goodman Foundation has also been holding a booth outside of Kent to help students register.

Sturgeon recommends registering early to avoid the hassle of same-day registration, but if something needs to be changed last minute, in-person registration is always an option.

For students registering at their out of state home address, make sure to check that state’s voter registration deadline. Information can be found at

Due to COVID-19, students may want to vote by absentee ballot instead of in-person voting. Iowa has a no-excuse absentee ballot, meaning that everyone can have access to an absentee ballot.

Students can access the form at After it is filled off, it can be dropped off or mailed to the County Auditor’s office.

When registering for an absentee ballot, make sure to consider where the ballot is being sent.

“Everyone will have to make their own judgment about where to send their absentee ballot,” said Sturgeon. “We do want everyone to know that official election mail cannot be forwarded. So, let’s say that I send my ballot to my Simpson address but then I get sent home before I can pick it up. The mailroom cannot forward that ballot to me at my home address; it essentially gets stuck in the mailroom.”

This means if students are sent home due to COVID-19 reasons students that had requested an absentee ballot to their campus mailbox would not be able to vote since the mail center cannot forward the ballot.

“If you mail it to your home address, your parents can put your ballot in another envelope and mail it to you here at school,” Sturgeon said. “Or if you live close enough, you can drive home on a weekend, fill it out, and mail it in.”

Iowa starts sending out absentee ballots on Oct. 5. Students can use the dropbox on the south side of the Warren County admirative building to drop off their ballots. They can also mail their ballot back to their home county auditor’s office.

“In the state of Iowa, your ballot must be received by your county auditor’s office by the time the polls close on Election Day, Nov. 3rd. Ideally, you should mail your ballot back two weeks before the election just in case there’s any postal delays,” Sturgeon said. “If it is the week before the election and you still haven’t mailed in your absentee ballot, you should physically bring it to your auditor’s office or drop it off in a dropbox specifically designated for ballots. If it’s the day of the election and you still have your absentee ballot, just bring your ballot to your polling location, and you can vote in-person. It is important that you bring the ballot with you. If you try and vote in-person and you requested an absentee ballot, it will be very difficult for you to vote on Election Day.”

Voting in person is an option for those that don’t want to vote via mail. Just remember to follow the COVID-19 guidelines set out at the polling place.

For students that still have questions about voting, they can reach out to Sturgeon at [email protected] or contact the other engagement fellows: Daniel Estrada, Kylie Doupnik and Drake Wood. Students can also follow Vote Everywhere at Simpson College on Instagram and Facebook and @simpcoagf on Twitter.

There is also an Iowa campus voting summit on Sept. 25 via Zoom from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. that is open to all Iowa college and university students, staff and faculty.

Some of the things that will be discussed are how to vote during a pandemic, absentee ballot requests, and early/satellite voting. Sturgeon and Culver Center Director Seth Anderson will be panelists. To register, go to