Iowa law provides cities with a variety of choices for the election of city officials.
There are four nomination processes:
The city clerk certifies to the county auditor the type of nomination process adopted by the city’s ordinance no later than 90 days before the regular city election. After certification, the nomination process cannot be changed by the city council unless the change will take effect after this year’s regular city elections. [§376.6(2)]
Primary Cities in Scott County
If the city's ordinances do not include a specific provision naming a nomination process, Iowa law requires that the primary election process be used. Even with a primary election provision, a primary election is held only if there are more than 2 candidates who filed nomination papers to run for an office.
Candidates file nomination petitions to get on the ballot in the primary election. The number of signatures needed by each candidate is determined by the number of votes cast for that office at the previous election. If there are zero, one, or two (or no) candidates for an office no primary election is needed for that office.
If there are more than two candidates for an office, a primary election is held four weeks before the regular city election. Only the offices with more than two candidates are included on the ballot at the primary election. The two candidates who receive the most votes are declared nominated and their names appear on the ballot at the regular city election.
*The filing period for cities that may need to hold primary elections is shorter and earlier than it is for cities without primary election provisions.
If a city does not wish to nominate candidates through a primary election process, the city must adopt an alternate method of nomination by ordinance.
Chapter 45 Cities in Scott County
The city council may use this nomination procedure by adopting an ordinance specifying nominations for city offices will be made pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 45. Candidates collect signatures on petitions to get their names on the ballot at the regular city election. The number of signatures needed on a nomination petition is based upon the population of the city. In cities with this nomination method, the regular city election is the only election held. There is no primary or runoff election. Some cities allow nominations to be made under either chapter 45 or chapter 44, or both. [§45.1(8), §45.1(9)]
Chapter 44 Cities in Scott County
The city council may use this nomination procedure by adopting an ordinance specifying nominations for city offices will be made pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 44. In cities with this nomination method, candidates can be nominated by conventions of nonparty political organizations. Iowa law requires that a minimum number of people attend the convention or the convention is not valid. The regular city election is the only election held if nominations under chapter 44 have been adopted. There is no primary or runoff election. Some cities allow nominations to be made under either chapter 45 or chapter 44 or both. [§44.1]
Runoff Cities in Scott County
The city council may use this nomination procedure by adopting an ordinance specifying runoff elections will be held pursuant to Iowa Code section 376.9 if either a) no candidate for an office receives a majority of the votes cast at the regular city election or b) a write-in candidate receives a majority of the votes cast and declines the office. The county board of supervisors canvasses the votes from the regular city election to determine which names appear on the ballot in the runoff election. The runoff election must be held four weeks after the regular city election. Candidates for the runoff election cannot withdraw. §376.9
Source: "State of Iowa, City Clerk’s Guide to City Elections 2009-2010. Michael A. Mauro Iowa Secretary of State"