If voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, then why does it have to be such a pain? Election Day in the U.S. is always a Tuesday, smack in the middle of the work week. If you move to a new state or county, you need to re-register. State voter ID requirements change all the time, so you could show up to a polling station, wait in line and still get blocked from voting. Now imagine that you’re homeless in America. You move so frequently that it’s nearly impossible to maintain a stable mailing address. You’ve never had a driver’s license and your Social Security card was lost years ago. You can’t afford transportation to the county elections office or your local polling place. And frankly, you have a lot more pressing problems than registering to vote. So, while homeless people have every right to vote in U.S. elections (and may want to if only to influence policy on housing and poverty), the obstacles to successfully registering and voting while homeless can be insurmountable.
Wisconsin: Collaborative effort to help homeless population register to vote | Wisconsin State Journal
Madison’s homeless resource day center had its first voter registration outreach event Wednesday to increase voter turnout by people who are homeless. The Beacon, which opened in October 2017 at 615 E. Washington Ave., collaborated with the Dane County Board and the League of Women Voters in Dane County to help homeless people learn how to get a voter ID and register in time for the upcoming election. The drive was an opportunity for people to get familiar with the voting process and voter laws they might not be aware of. Wisconsin law requires voters to have a valid Wisconsin state ID or driver’s license. Gail Bliss, who works with the league, said voter ID laws can make it difficult for homeless people to vote.
Tempe’s upcoming election will be an all mail-in election, but some worry that as cities and school districts increasingly move to postal voting, homeless people and those with certain disabilities could be disenfranchised. All Maricopa County school districts opted to have voters cast ballots by mail last fall. Cities including Tempe, Fountain Hills, Queen Creek and Surprise are pursuing mail-in ballots this year. Renaldo Fowler of the Arizona Center for Disability Law, along with the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, are among those working to ensure voting by mail doesn’t leave some people out. They’ve been working to educate Arizona’s homeless population on how they can still vote without a home address. And to educate voters with visual impairments and other disabilities that special ballots can be requested, such as large print or braille.
Every Election Day, Chrissy Simonds makes the rounds to homeless shelters and transitional housing in Manchester urging people to vote. Simonds, who was once homeless, often faces skepticism from people who tell her their vote doesn’t matter. Still, she presses on. In November, she convinced seven people to vote — a record, if small. But Simonds and other advocates fear a bill in the New Hampshire legislature will create further barriers to voting for a population that already feels marginalized. The Republican-authored bill adds new requirements for anyone who registers within 30 days of an election to provide documentation, such as a lease or a driver’s license, to show where they live and that they plan to stay there. For people without a fixed address, such documents may not exist or be difficult to access.
California: In narrow election, downtown votes against creating neighborhood council for skid row | Los Angeles Times
Downtown residents and business people narrowly defeated a proposal to form a separate neighborhood council for skid row, the city’s epicenter of homelessness, but the measure organizers said Friday that they would continue to press for a stronger voice for their community. People with ties to a broad swath of downtown interests voted 826 to 764 against a breakaway council for the 10,000 residents of skid row’s tents, renovated slum hotels and apartments, according to an unofficial tally. The results will not be certified until challenges or recount requests, if any, are resolved, according to Stephen Box, the director of outreach and communications for the L.A. Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.
Ohio: Homeless advocates ask U.S. Supreme Court to take up Ohio voter disenfranchisement case | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Advocates for the homeless who have waged a multi-year legal battle to challenge Ohio’s provisional and absentee ballot rules are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their case. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the Ohio Democratic Party filed its petition Friday. The groups say large groups of minority voters have been disenfranchised solely because of technical errors and omissions on voter ballot forms for absentee and provisional ballots. The petition says a federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled differently than the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether private citizens can sue to enforce a certain provision of federal law pertaining to voting. The provision prohibits denying the right to vote based on missing or incorrect information on applications that do not prevent election workers from confirming a voter’s eligibility.
Ohio: Homeless advocates, Democrats ask full appellate court to review Ohio voter disenfranchisement case | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Advocates for the homeless who challenged the fairness of how Ohio counts some votes have asked the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear their case in the wake of a three-judge panel’s decision that reversed their lower-court victory. In a court filing Tuesday, lawyers for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the Ohio Democratic Party argue that panel’s decision conflicts with previous Supreme Court and 6th Circuit rulings. That decision Sept. 13 overturned a lower court’s ruling that said Ohio was disenfranchising otherwise undisputedly eligible voters solely because of technical errors and omissions on voter ballot forms for absentee and provisional ballots. … Lawyers for the homeless coalitions asked for a review of the panel’s ruling by the full 6th Circuit bench, which has more than a dozen active judges.
Not everyone has the financial means to replace a lost or stolen identification card. People experiencing homelessness may additionally struggle with accessing other proofs of identification and residency required to obtain a new identification card. Not having any identification can mean denied access to benefits or services and, in some states, the loss of the ability to vote. While some states and the District only require identification during voter registration, others require a photo ID at the ballot box. North Dakota, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia all require photo IDs on Election Day. Other states accept non-photographic proof of identification, such as a bank statement with a voter’s name and address. So what happens if a voter goes to the polls without an acceptable form of identification in their state?
Inside the wide, sunlit foyer of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library, Eric Sheptock points to an expansive mural of the late civil rights activist. “I wish that the poor people of today were as willing to fight for justice as those who marched with Martin Luther King,” he says. “It seems that the poor have lost heart and are less willing to stand up for themselves.” Sheptock, who has been intermittently homeless since 1994, has become an activist for Washington DC’s homeless community, which he hopes will vote in the forthcoming elections when Americans head to the polls to choose their 45th president. “There is no reason for a homeless person not to vote,” he tells Al Jazeera. “You can’t be denied the right to vote because you’re homeless.”
Sandra Abdoulaye wants to cast a vote in this year’s presidential election but wasn’t sure she was eligible to register, because she is homeless. On Friday, volunteers at the resource center run by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless asked the 60-year-old a few questions, and soon, Abdoulaye was filling out the one-page form to register to vote, listing a shelter for both her home and her mailing address so the state can send her a ballot. “It was fast and easy,” Abdoulaye said. “I don’t know why anyone would refuse.” This year, some organizations and the Secretary of State’s office are targeting voter registration efforts at people who are homeless. In Colorado, voters have long been able to use any location — a shelter or a park — as a home address, as long as they also list a mailing address where they can receive ballots. Having an identification card isn’t a requirement to register.
National: Seen and not heard: homeless people absent from election even as ranks grow | The Guardian
It is no mean feat to cast a ballot when home is a doorway or a tent beneath a freeway underpass. When your mailing address is General Delivery, or the Prison Legal Services office, or someone else’s room at an SRO hotel. When the hunt for a voting precinct vies with the search for food and shelter. Even so, the presidential contest has been front of mind at the St Anthony Foundation dining room in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin district. The first seating at St Anthony is for families and the elderly. Lunch starts at 10am and is often the only meal of the day for people such as Tom Orrell, who is picking at his turkey dish and talking politics. His home is a patch of sidewalk at the corner of Jones Street and Golden Gate Avenue. His party, the Democrats. His candidate, Bernie Sanders – but he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, even though he’s not sure America is ready for a female president. His issue is healthcare, with a dash of education. “The way I look at it, we’ve got to have healthy kids,” says the 62-year-old former construction worker, who votes whether he has a roof or not. For two years, he has not. “To get them healthy, we need to have education. We’re falling down in both. To have a bright future, we need better healthcare.”
The attempts by Republican lawmakers to suppress the turnout of Democratic-leaning voters in the 2016 election have reached shameless levels in Ohio — a swing state where it turns out that even homeless citizens have been blocked from exercising their right to vote. Thanks to a timely ruling last week from a federal district judge, Algenon Marbley, the obstacles to minorities at the polling booth come November may be less formidable than they might have been, though the state plans to appeal and problems remain. The judge struck down a 2014 Republican-sponsored state law that, among other things, required that absentee ballots be thrown out for essentially trivial mistakes. This, the judge ruled, discriminated against minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act, including homeless people disqualified for not providing precise addresses. Other changes in the 2014 law shortened the period during which voters could correct such errors and barred election clerks from helping someone confused by the forms, unless the voter was physically disabled.
Ohio’s elections chief and advocates for the homeless are making their final arguments in a federal lawsuit that could affect how thousands of ballots are cast and counted in the swing state. The advocates, along with the Ohio Democratic Party, are suing Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted over changes made in 2014 to requirements for absentee or provisional ballots. The two sides reiterated their arguments and findings in court briefs last week and are expected to submit their final filings with the court on Thursday. The case would then be left to the judge to decide. … At issue are the laws and procedures for absentee and provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are those cast when a voter’s identity or registration is in question, among other reasons. The voter’s eligibility is verified later.
In 2009, Benny Donnelly was homeless on the streets of Dublin. Mostly he slept rough, though occasionally he managed to spend the night in a hostel. But he was determined to have his say in the Treaty of Lisbon referendum. Donnelly was unsure of what procedure to follow, since he didn’t have an address. But, sure of his right to vote, he headed to Bridewell Garda Station – the closest one to Merchants Quay hostel – to register. “There was no one willing to help,” he recalls. Despite his efforts, he never learned how to register to vote without a permanent address, and he’s unclear on the matter to this day. “If there was a referendum on abortion tomorrow, I’d want to vote,” he says. But he wouldn’t know how. Article 16 of the Constitution guarantees the right to vote in Dáil elections to all citizens over the age of 18. But for some it is much more difficult to vote than for others.
Hidden behind the government district in downtown Phoenix sits a cluster of homeless shelters, food banks and clinics. Run by both religious groups and the City of Phoenix, each provides men and women basic living necessities and assistance with the transition out of homelessness, a period averaging about three months, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Of the services offered, few help those participate in one of the most basic civil rights of American citizens — the right to vote. Both local and national election processes present the difficult tasks of finding a ballot, getting to a voting place, accessing election information and acquiring the necessary identification to register and cast a vote.
The days of blatant and direct disenfranchisement — literacy tests, poll taxes, etc. — might be in the past, but there are still countless Americans who struggle to have their voices heard on Election Day. Indiana’s prison population, which was near 28,000 people as of July 1, 2015, according to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC), is one group unable to cast a ballot. Indiana could be considered moderate compared to the rest of the country in terms of voting rights for felons. According to ProCon.org, Indiana is among 13 states (and Washington, D.C.) that restore a felon’s voting rights after the offender has served their full prison term.
China: Address… Hong Kong park: How city’s homeless are able to register to vote citing playgrounds and public spaces as home | South China Morning Post
Like many other Hongkongers, 58-year-old Ah Sun is a registered voter – only the address he uses for the enrolment is a playground in Sham Shui Po, where he has lived for nine years. Ah Sun is one of the three voters who cited public space in Sham Shui Po – Shun Ning Road Playground, Tung…
Homeless persons couldn’t be denied the right to vote if new legislation allowing them to list a homeless shelter as their address for voter registration passes the General Assembly. Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, D-Wilmington, said she sought to amend Delaware’s code to clarify rights for homeless individuals after hearing concerns from her constituents in the Wilmington area about difficulties registering to vote. In New Castle County Rep. Bolden said she sees three categories of homelessness: the working poor, individuals with disabilities, and those who have drug and alchohol abuse problems. Her bill hopes to address some of their concerns.
On a hazy Tuesday morning at a homeless shelter, Durga Dayal, 27, showed me his voter identity card with great elation. As I sat looking at his voter card, scores of people flitted in and out of the shelter, inquiring about whether their cards had arrived as well. The excitement was palpable and justified as a new voting bloc has emerged in the national capital before the Delhi state assembly elections on Wednesday. Considered one of the most marginalized communities in the state, around 7,000 of the homeless are expected to make their way to the polling booths for the very first time to cast their votes. “It is a good step as it will help in improving the voting percentage and also to spread awareness about the right to vote in elections,” said Ravinder Kumar Bajaj, an electoral registration officer in charge of Chandni Chowk, a locality in old Delhi. A large number of the homeless have been registered as voters in this assembly constituency.
Voter ID advocates and opponents alike will be watching Wisconsin on Monday as a new federal trial on the state’s photo ID law begins. The case is the first federal trial under the Voting Rights Act since the Supreme Court struck down part of the law in June, and it’s one of the first cases to challenge voter ID under what’s known as Section 2 of the VRA. Section 2, which was unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision, prohibits procedures that discriminate based on race and other protected groups. “I think that everyone’s going to be looking at what happens in Wisconsin,” said Rick Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law and political science professor and author of Election Law Blog. “Whoever’s on the successful side will say, ‘See, we told you,’ and whoever’s on the losing side will either say the court got it wrong or point to factual differences [in their state], but it will be important because it’s one of the first Section 2 challenges to the voting ID law.” The trial covers two challenges to the law, one brought by the group Advancement Project, which argues that the Wisconsin law is particularly burdensome on voters of color, and another brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which focuses on minorities as well as elderly, student, low-income, disabled and homeless voters.
Daniel Farquharson registered to vote for the first time ever Wednesday, at the age of 58. Homeless since 2007, the Quincy native said his top issue in the upcoming city election is deeply personal. “Get more affordable housing,” said Farquharson, who was living in a shelter even before he recently lost his job. “When I was working, I didn’t make enough to afford a decent place.” Farquharson said he hasn’t decided whether he will give his vote for mayor to Councilor John R. Connolly or state Representative Martin J. Walsh but said he was satisfied they prevailed in the 12-candidate preliminary election. “The two that they finally settled on would have been my pick,” he said. Conventional wisdom says Boston elections are won and lost in high-turnout neighborhoods such as West Roxbury and South Boston, but advocates for the homeless are working to ensure that voters with no permanent address also make their voices heard. At a Wednesday afternoon voter registration drive at the Pine Street Inn, Lyndia Downie, the shelter’s executive director, said voting has a symbolic as well as practical value for the shelter’s residents. “For many of our folks, they’re feeling very isolated and feeling forgotten about,” Downie said, “and getting ready to vote means they’re thinking about being part of a community again.”
A federal judge extended a 2010 court decree that governs Ohio’s provisional ballots and voter identification requirements, which voter advocates say has kept elections from becoming the “Wild West.” The agreement ensures that election officials count votes cast provisionally when voters use the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley today. He extended the order until the end of 2016, after the next presidential election in the battleground state. Marbley said that without the decree, “there is nothing to prevent boards of election from returning to those haphazard and, in some cases, illegal practices, which previously resulted in the invalidation of validly cast ballots from registered voters.”
A witness described his efforts to help homeless people in Philadelphia qualify for state photo identification cards, and lawyers clashed over a year-old survey that showed large numbers of voters lacking acceptable IDs as a trial on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s yet-to-be-enforced voter ID law reached its third day Wednesday. Late in the day, a lawyer for plaintiffs seeking to overturn the law began questioning Jonathan Marks, a high-ranking elections official, about the evolution of a special Pennsylvania Department of State photo ID available to voters who can’t obtain other acceptable identification, but the testimony was continued until Thursday.
Voter advocates asked a federal judge Friday to extend a court order that they say ensures that broad definitions of voter identification requirements would remain in place in the perennial presidential battleground of Ohio. Attorneys for the state’s top election official said he’s committed to the more lenient voter ID definitions, unless the Legislature changes the law. At issue is whether a 2010 expiring court agreement that governs provisional ballots and forms of voter ID in Ohio should continue. An attorney representing homeless voters told the federal court in Columbus that without the decree, the state would return to a “Wild West” system in which county election boards could apply vague standards unequally and unfairly to legitimate voters.
Voter advocates asked a federal judge yesterday to extend a court order that they say ensures that broad definitions of voter-identification requirements would remain in place in Ohio. Attorneys for the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Jon Husted, said he’s committed to the more-lenient voter-ID definitions, unless the legislature changes the law so the decree isn’t needed. At issue is whether an expiring 2010 court agreement that governs provisional ballots and forms of voter ID in Ohio should continue.
Elections BC has introduced a new initiative that they’re hoping will make voting easier for residents of one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods. For the first time, voters throughout the province will officially be allowed to present prescription bottles as a secondary piece of ID at the polls for next week’s provincial election. According to Don Main of Elections BC, the initiative was borne out of community consultations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside — sometimes referred to as ‘Canada’s poorest postal code.’
It’s unclear just how many D.C. residents will vote in Tuesday’s traditionally low-turnout special election. Will more vote this time than in the last citywide special election, in 2011, when 46,967 voted — a 10.3 percent turnout? What we know is that of the 2,894 residents who cast ballots during early voting this year, scores were homeless. They were organized by Shelter, Housing and Respectful Change and the Washington Interfaith Network, which held a rally April 13 at a downtown homeless shelter, after which about 80 homeless residents voted.
Even if you do not have a roof over your head, you can still cast a vote in the presidential election this November. Homeless people around the community can still register and get the new voter ID cards. For some, it may be the only ID they will have. Frankie Good is a homeless man in the area, and he said why he wants to vote this year. “I’d like to vote because I’d like to see the economy get back on its feet,” said Good. Good lives at the Mercy House in Harrisonburg because he is homeless. He has never voted, but he has always had an ID if he wanted one. Some homeless people, like James McNeil Wilson Jr., are not as lucky. “You have to fill out the applications. I can’t see. I don’t understand half of it anyways,” said McNeil.
Ohio’s elections chief is violating the state constitution by requiring county election boards to follow a federal court decree instead of state law when it comes to counting provisional ballots, GOP lawmakers alleged in a lawsuit Monday. At issue are requirements for providing identification when a voter has to cast a provisional ballot, typically a ballot cast in the wrong precinct. A 2006 state law laid out the requirements for when such ballots are counted, starting with voters who have only the last four digits of a Social Security number as identification. In general, state law is more restrictive than the federal decree when it comes to prohibiting provisional ballots. For example, the law doesn’t allow provisional ballots for votes cast in the wrong precinct because of a poll worker’s mistake, whereas the decree would allow such votes to be counted.
A new campaign aims to encourage homeless people to sign up to vote in this year’s council elections. Housing and homeless charity Shelter Scotland has teamed up with the Electoral Commission for the initiative. As well as urging homeless people to register to vote, it will encourage those in temporary accommodation and people renting properties to put their name on the electoral roll. Research by the Electoral Commission last April found only 56% of those living in rented accommodation were registered to vote, compared with 88% of owner occupiers. Andy O’Neill, head of the Electoral Commission in Scotland, said people living in temporary accommodation may not realise they can still register to vote using their temporary address.