Parties, Primary Elections and Campaigns
What is a political party?
A political party is an organization through which individual citizens work
with others of similar ideas to elect candidates and influence the policies
and conduct of government.
The functions of a party are to:
What are the political parties in Iowa?
- choose candidates to run for office in the general election
- work for the nomination and election of its candidates
- formulate the party platform or stand on issues
- carry out party policies
- educate citizens in civic and political matters.
To qualify for official, full party status, a party must win more than 2% or the
vote for President or governor in each general election. Iowa currently has two official political parties: Democratic and
Parties that do not meet the 2% requirement may petition for a
status called "political organization." These parties are listed
on voter registration forms, but do not hold primary elections. Since January 1, 2008, voters have been able to
register with two parties with political organization status, the Green Party and the Libertarian Party.
Can I register with another party?
Not now, but other groups may qualify for party or
organization status in the future.
More information on ballot access and political party
Can I register with more than one party?
No, if you check more than one box you will be registered as No Party until
and unless you re-register or make a correction.
Can a third party candidate run for office in Iowa?
Anyone who meets the legal requirements may run for
office. Candidates for partisan office who are not the nominees of the Democratic or
Republican parties qualify for the ballot through a process called nomination
by petition and may choose whether or not to list the name of a
party on the ballot.
Do I have to choose a party in order to register and to vote?
No. If you do not wish to belong to a political party or organization, you may leave the
party boxes blank when you register or check the box marked
"No Party." However, only voters who register with a fully
qualified party may
vote in a partisan primary election
(June, even numbered years) or participate in a party caucus (January or
February, even numbered years).
I thought I was registered with one party but my card says I'm registered
with another one.
You may have voted in a primary election
or attended a caucus and changed party at that time. If
you wish to make any changes or corrections, you can use the
correction part of your voter card.
How do I declare or change a party affiliation on my voter registration
Just fill out a voter registration form. Check the box for the party or organization of your choice.
There are no other requirements. If you leave the space blank or mark
"No Party," you will be registered with no party.
Why can't I register as an Independent? Why does it say
"NP" on my voter card?
The term "No Party" and abbreviation "NP" are specified by
law and used
Am I required to work or give money to the party?
No. You have no obligations when you register with a party.
If I choose a party, do I have to vote for all their candidates?
may choose whichever candidates they wish in secrecy without regard to party
in the general election.
A primary is an election that takes place within
each official political party. No one is elected in a primary
election. Instead, voters affiliated with political parties select
their party's candidates for the November general election.
The most recent primary was
June 5, 2012; the next primary will be
on June 3, 2014.
Only voters who register with a party may vote in a
primary, and only the full-status parties hold primaries.
Primary election: choose one
party's primary or the other;
cannot vote a split ticket.
Only Democrats and Republicans
General election: Everyone gets the same ballot.
More parties on ballot, you can split your ticket.
If you are registered to vote as a Republican, for example, your vote
in the primary election will help choose the Republican Party's nominees for
various offices. Since you, as a registered Republican, are selecting your
party's candidate to run against candidates from other parties in the general
election, you will be given a ballot with only Republican candidates to choose
from. You will not see the names of any Democratic or other candidates on your
primary election ballot.
In the general election, which decides who will actually fill the offices,
all voters get ballots listing all of the candidates.
Can an independent vote in a primary?
Well, yes and no. You can walk IN as an independent,
but you can't walk OUT as an independent. You have to declare affiliation as
a Democrat or Republican before you vote.
NOTE: A city primary (October, odd
numbered years) is not a partisan primary election, and eligible voters may
participate regardless of party affiliation.
Can I vote for a Republican for one office and a Democrat for another?
In a general election, yes. In a primary election, no.
Can I write in a candidate of one party in the other party's primary?
Yes, but the party primaries are separate contests. In
the example above, if you vote in the Democratic primary and write in Abe
Lincoln, that will be counted as a Democratic
primary vote for Lincoln, but it will not be added to Lincoln's
Can a candidate be nominated as a write in?
A candidate must win 35% of the total primary vote in order to be nominated
as a write in.
Can a candidate be the nominee of more than one party?
Some states allow candidates to appear on the ballot as the nominee of more
than one party, a practice called "fusion." However, Iowa law
does not allow fusion. A candidate can only be on one party's primary ballot,
and anyone who won the nomination of a second party as a write-in would have to choose which nomination to accept.
Can a candidate who loses a primary run as an independent or with another
party in the general election?
Yes. Some states have so-called "sore loser" laws, but Iowa does not.
Iowa's filing period for independent and other party candidates is in July
and August, so a candidate who lost a primary would still have time to
petition and qualify for the November ballot. (Some states have an
independent/other party filing deadline that falls before the primary.)
Do political organizations have primaries?
No, but they may qualify candidates for the ballot through the nomination
by petition process. They may have internal procedures, such as
conventions, to choose their candidates, but those would be run by the party
and not by our office. We only conduct primaries for the two full status
If I choose a party when I register, can I change later?
Yes, you just have to re-register. Any Iowa
voter may re-register and change party affiliation at any time, including at
I contact the political parties in Johnson County?
nonpartisan election resources | Disclaimer
Where are the party headquarters?
Both full-status parties have permanent state offices
in Des Moines. County parties usually open local headquarters in the months before
a general election.
How can I find out about the candidates before I vote? Can I get
information from your office?
The Auditor's Office provides contact information for campaigns,
candidates, and parties.
Before each election we post a list of candidates and ballot issues that includes addresses and
(if available) phone numbers, e-mail addresses and web sites so that you may contact the
We do not provide campaign literature or answer specific questions such as
how a candidate stands on a given issue. Some states send "voter guide"
books to voters before each election, but Iowa does not.
All local campaign committees file with the Iowa
Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB) as of January 1, 2003.
(Before that date local committees filed reports with our office.)
Candidates for statewide or legislative office also file with the Iowa
Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.
Committees do not automatically close once an election ends. The
candidate or officers must close the account with a zero balance and account
for all funds raised and spent.
For more information, please contact the Iowa
Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.
Candidates for federal office file with the Federal Election Commission.
Campaign signs larger that 32 square feet must carry a disclaimer
("paid for by").
Signs may not be placed in the right of way. In most residential
areas this means between the sidewalk and curb.
Signs may not be within 300 feet of a polling place on election day.
exception is allowed for signs at people's homes, so if you happen to live near
a polling place you may leave your sign up.
When can signs go up? When do they have to be taken down?
Courts have determined that laws restricting the time a campaign sign may
be displayed are an
unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Signs may go up in a lawful
location at any time before an election, and do not have to be taken down
after an election. Some cities still have sign ordinances on the books, but
these ordinances are no
Signs on Corporate Property: Campaigns for Candidates
In Iowa, corporations are not allowed to make contributions to campaigns
for candidates, and a sign is considered a form of campaign contribution.
However, campaigns for candidates may place signs on corporate property under certain conditions.
In all cases, other sign regulations (size and
right-of-way) still apply.
Corporate property occupied by corporation:
- Candidate sign placement prohibited.
Corporate property occupied by individual tenants:
- Campaigns may place signs in common areas with written permission from
- Signs may not be placed in the corporate office.
- Individual tenants may place signs in the area they are leasing.
Individual property leased to a corporate tenant:
- Campaigns may place signs with written permission from the corporate
Property owned by a family farm corporation:
- Campaigns may place signs.
Property rented as a campaign headquarters:
- Campaigns may place signs.
Copies of written permission should be available from the campaign
committee upon demand.
Signs on Corporate Property: Ballot Issue Campaigns
Since corporate contributions to ballot issue campaigns are legal in Iowa,
these campaigns may place signs on corporate property. Other sign regulations (size and
right-of-way) still apply.
Our office is only responsible for the enforcement of sign laws in the
polling place and immediate area. If the complaint concerns a sign in the right of way, you
may contact the appropriate road department (city streets
department, Johnson County Secondary Roads, or the Iowa Department of
Transportation). These departments are authorized to remove signs if they are in violation
of right of way, as staff time allows. However, they may consider their
other duties a higher priority. You should not remove signs yourself.
If you have other concerns about signs, document the possible violation
and contact the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. They do
not have staff to go out and immediately enforce the law, but may reprimand
a campaign after the fact.