County-Wide Voter Card Mailing - March 2016

Beginning March 31, 2016, the Secretary of State's Office mailed EVERY voter in Johnson County a new voter card. This was our first county-wide mailing since 2012, and it also included all the changes and new registrations from the February 1 caucuses.

Most of the cards were returned to our office by the end of April 2016. Thanks to excellent public cooperation, thousands of voter records have been updated. Our office would like to thank everyone who made corrections in their own registrations or who returned cards for people who have moved away, and also the post office for dealing with the extra workload.  The University of Iowa residence halls and Greek community deserve a special thanks for returning so many cards for long-gone graduates. (Yes, a card was returned for the 46 year old woman registered at a sorority house who last voted in 1992, who we singled out as an example.)

Periodic voter list maintenance mailings such as the county-wide mailing are required under the federal Motor Voter Act of 1993 and by state law (Iowa Code Section 48A.28)The wording on the cards has caused some confusion. Voters who have NOT moved or changed anything on their registration are NOT required to return their own cards in order to vote this year. As long as a person does not move and is able to receive mail, voter registration is permanent and never has to be “renewed.”

We are well aware that the wording on the cards led many voters to believe they were required to return the cards even if they had no changes to their registration. The specific wording on the cards was set by the Secretary of State’s office, not by our office, as required by Iowa Code Section 48A.28(3)b: “The form and language of the confirmation notice and return card shall be specified by the state voter registration commission by rule.” We plan to discuss this wording with the Secretary of State’s office and hope to help them revise it for future mailings.

Anyone who has NOT received a card should contact our office.  In a mailing of 90,000 cards, some items are likely to go missing, and even small issues such as missing apartment numbers or post office boxes can prevent delivery.

Most years, Johnson County only sends cards to people who reported a change of address to the Postal Service. In 2016, because of the presidential election,  because many polling places have moved, and because thousands of voters registered or changed registration at the caucuses, we decided to send cards to everyone.  

Statistical Report through April 25

On Friday, March 31, Johnson County had 90,122 active registered voters.  By Monday, April 25, that number was down to 83,119, a drop of 7,003.  Routine registrations were processed throughout this period, but the vast majority of changes were from the county-wide mailing.

Beginning Tuesday, April 26, active registration began increasing again, as new registrations outnumbered the inactivations and cancellations from the county-wide mailing. Cards will continue to trickle in indefinitely, but the change in trend indicates that the mailing is more or less complete. 
















No Party



County Total


















No Party



County Total

















No Party



County Total



Between March 31 and April 25, 6460 Johnson County voters were changed from Active to Inactive status: 2361 Democrats, 1132 Republicans, 40 Libertarians, 17 Greens, and 2910 No Party voters. 857 voters were either cancelled or moved to other counties in Iowa: 368 Democrats, 173 Republicans, six Libertarians, one Green, and 309 no party voters).

The county-wide mailing also included new registrations and changes from the February 1 caucuses. 520 voters changed affiliation between February 16, when data entry from the caucuses was complete, through April 25.


Party on April 25

Party on Feb. 16





No Party













No Party






(no voters changed away from Green/Libertarian to other affiliations)

As a percentage of active voters, Democratic registration is at an all-time record high 48.54%, topping the previous high of 48.09% after the 2008 caucuses and primary.  At 28.99%, No Party registration is at by far its lowest level; the prior record low was 31.03% following the 1994 primary.  The inactivations and cancellations most heavily affected former students who have moved away, and young voters are statistically the largest No Party and third party group. The inactivations and cancellations far outweighed the post-caucus party changes.

Republican registration is at 21.92%, one of its higher levels historically but below the 24.37% record set in June 1994 immediately after the primary for governor between Terry Branstad and Fred Grandy. (Republican registration stayed above 22% for three years after the 1994 primary.)

Party percentages are likely to increase more as voting gets underway for the June 7 primary, in which voters need to register as Democrats or Republicans to participate.  No Party registrations will increase dramatically in the fall as young voters register for the November 8 presidential election.

Additional statistical details are available at

Johnson County last did a countywide voter card mailing in February 2012 after reprecincting. Active registration dropped by 11,623, from 92,451 on February 24, 2012, to 80,828 on April 13.

Voter Registration Statistics Spreadsheets

Requirements And Processing Of County-Wide Mailing

Under the Motor Voter law, no one's voter registration is cancelled simply for not voting. Instead, the cancellation process is based primarily on the mail. As long as we send mail and it's not returned, either by the post office or by the new resident, we have to assume a person still lives at the address we have on file and simply doesn't want to vote. (Political campaigns will also assume the person still lives there, so you'll probably get mailings and phone calls.) 

Johnson County has many voters who we strongly believe moved away years or even decades ago.


This 46 year old woman who last voted in Iowa City in 1992 was still actively registered at a sorority house. Everyone asks; no, she was not the house parent. (UPDATE: The sorority house correctly returned this woman's card. She was placed on inactive status and will be canceled in early 2019.) There are more like her. We can't single them out or treat them differently than anyone else. We cannot begin the process of cancelling these voters without a proper response from the people currently living at these addresses! That's why we need your help. 


What to do when you get a card 

Use the regular post office, not an owl.

At left is what the outside of the card looks like.

If the card is addressed to someone who does not live at your address, check the box marked “The person to whom this card is addressed does not live at this address,” SIGN THE CARD, and return it. (If you don't sign it, we can't do anything.) The reply cards are postage paid.

If the person is a family member or someone you know, you can list their new address. That way, we can contact the person directly and complete the cancellation process.

Once we get the card back, we will place the voter on "Inactive" status, a preliminary step to cancellation. This will require additional mailings to the voter, so you may see more mail from our office.

The intent of the law is to make it very, very hard to cancel someone's registration without their knowledge. We cannot completely cancel a voter without their 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 inactive through two general elections. Voters inactivated now will be cancelled after the 2018 general election.

Cards that the Post Office cannot deliver because forwarding orders have expired will be returned to our office, and the voters will be put on Inactive status. Again, this will require additional mailings to the voter.

The inside of the card lists the voter information that we have on our files.

If the card is addressed to you and all the information is correct, you do not need to respond. The card lists your polling places so keep it for future reference. Note that many polling places have changed since the last presidential election, including new changes that we are announcing with this mailing.


At right is the inside of the card.

If the card is addressed to you but you need to change information such as your name, address, or party, note the changes on the reply card, SIGN IT, and return it. (Note this this mailing will include all the address and party changes from the February 1 caucuses.)

If your new address is within Johnson County, you will get another card indicating the changes in a couple weeks.

If you list a new address outside Johnson County, we have to cancel your registration, You will need to register again in your new county or state.

Post Office Boxes  

In order to register to vote, you must list a physical address, so we can assign you to the right precinct and districts.  Voters who receive their mail at a post office box, at the Crisis Center, or at a commercial mail drop such as Mailboxes Etc. or UPS, are asked to provide both a street address and a mailing address.  (The only exception is the Domestic Violence Shelter.)

Homeless Voters

You do not lose the right to vote just because you are homeless. However, we can't accept "Homeless" as an address. Voters who are homeless must specify the location to which they most often return or sleep, so that we can assign them to a precinct.

If you are staying at Shelter House, you may list that address (429 Southgate). If you are out of doors, you must describe the location where you most often camp (such as "southeast corner of Riverside and Benton" or "camper in Iowa City Walmart parking lot"). 

No one should use the Crisis Center (1121 Gilbert) as a residence address, since no one stays there at night. The Crisis Center should only be used as a mailing address.

Caretakers and Power Of Attorney

If you are a caretaker for someone else, please note that you cannot sign a card using "power of attorney." Iowa law specifically excludes this. A request to cancel registration can only be signed by the voter themselves.

If the person you are caring for is no longer able to understand or sign their name, unfortunately we may not be able to cancel their registration until we get notice they have moved away or passed away.

If the person you are caring for understands but cannot write, you may sign for them in their presence. Use the format "John Smith by Susan Smith" but do NOT use the phrase "power of attorney."

Other Common Problems  

  • An address change by one family member may have been reported by the U.S. Postal Service as a change for the whole family.  
  • If you have an adult child who has moved away, and the letter carrier keeps delivering their mail, we have to assume they still live in your home.
  • "Snow birds" who maintain a winter residence outside Iowa and have reported a long-term address change to the Postal Service often receive have issues with election mail.
  • The data for the countywide mailing was processed by the Secretary of State on March 15. If you made a change in your registration after that date, you may get two cards and they may contain different information.
  • Cards or other voter materials that are returned without signatures cannot be processed.  

Almost all problems can be solved if the voter themselves returns a corrected, signed card to our office.

 Please contact our office with any questions.   

Use the regular post office, not an owl.