“You don’t need a home to vote, ” as the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) reminds us on the cover of its 2012 Voting Rights Manual. The NCH and its national partners are wrapping up National Homeless and Low-Income Voter Registration Week, which runs from September 30 to October 6. Voter registration deadlines for the upcoming November elections in the majority of states are fast approaching, but registration will be open in more than a dozen states for at least another week. You can find out the registration deadline in your state from the NCH manual, or look for this information on the website of your state elections office. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has a list of state links for state-specific information and registration tools.
The NCH manual offers general tips about registering homeless voters. If there is still time to help homeless citizens register in your state, here are some key points you should keep in mind:
- Homelessness is not, in any state, a sufficient condition for denying a person the right to register to vote.
- Community agencies and homeless advocates can help by making registration materials available to clients and other visitors.
- Registration materials should be kept separate from other materials and must not feature or accompany messages that favor one party or one candidate over another. A best practice is to avoid naming any candidates or identifiable campaign themes. Keep messages non-partisan – aimed at voting and civic engagement, without regard to party or candidate.’
- Be aware of the types of the addresses that your state accepts when registering homeless people, as well as any requirements to report about duration of residency.
- Know how to document and report any apparently unlawful or unusual restrictions on voting registration.
If the registration deadline in your state has passed, you still have time to plan ways to help people experiencing homelessness participate if they are already registered.
- Service agencies and community organizations can help citizens with transportation to polling sites. Contact your state or local elections office for up-to-date information about polling sites near shelters or major service agencies and other key sites. Again, it is important to remain non-partisan when helping in this way.
- Be familiar with and be able to explain procedures for casting a provisional ballot, just in case there is a problem at the point of voting.
- Know how to document and report apparently unlawful or unusual restrictions on the exercise of voting rights.
- Visit NCH’s website at nationalhomeless.org for more resources and connections to help homeless and low-income citizens exercise their voting rights. And look for a guest blog post from an NCH advocate on the Alliance website later this month.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a website of the federal government
This Is My Vote, a project of the NAACP
Ex-Felons and Voting Rights, a map of state policies from the American Civil Liberties Union