New state rules that require photo identification to vote could make it harder for the homeless to cast ballots, and local advocates are trying to help. JOSHUA, an interfaith social justice organization, has made it a priority to help the homeless and others in need navigate the new voting laws before heading to the polls.
The legislation, in part, requires people to show photo ID when voting. That can be challenging for a person who doesn’t have a place to call home or transportation to visit a state Division of Motor Vehicles office to obtain the proper ID. Election specialists from the state Government Accountability Board told a group of advocates Tuesday at the Brown County Central Library the law doesn’t make exceptions for the homeless.
“They’ve always been somewhat of a square peg in a round hole when it comes to voting,” said election specialist David Buerger. “That’s always been the case. The laws really are based on and designed around where people live.”
Homeless people need to show the accountability board where they intend to live or where they consider home to be, he said.
He suggested they work with a local clerk’s office during an open registration period — 20 days or more before an election — to register. This will give the election workers time to work with social service agencies, homeless shelters or other organizations to show that the homeless person does live within the community.
Government workers won’t have time to do those checks once that period has closed, Buerger warned.
Still, homeless people will be required to have a photo ID to vote. Typically, people will provide a certified birth certificate to the DMV in order to receive a state ID card. Those certificates cost $20, plus handling. Copies are not accepted.