You Don't Need a Home to Vote!
2010 Voter Rights/Registration Packet
Equal access to the right to vote is a crucial part of maintaining a true democracy. Voting allows people to play a part in deciding the direction of their communities by voicing their opinion on issues that are important and relevant to their lives. Each election, low income and homeless individuals vote at a lower rate than people with higher incomes, despite the fact that many policy decisions directly impact people who are economically disadvantaged. Currently, issues such as raising the minimum wage and funding certain social welfare and housing programs are being debated in the U.S. Congress and in communities around the country. In order for our government to truly represent the people, citizens must vote-- especially those who are economically disadvantaged.
For years, homeless citizens have had obstacles to registering. In the 1984 case Pitts v. Black, 608 F.Supp. 696 (S.D.N.Y. 1984), a federal court in New York explicitly found that homeless persons could not be denied the right to vote just because they did not live in a traditional residence. Courts deciding subsequent cases from around the country came to similar conclusions. Although it has been established that homeless individuals do not need to live in a traditional residence to register to vote, other obstacles remain. Today, many homeless and low income individuals may not have the appropriate identification documents required by some states to register or to vote. Furthermore, many individuals who are experiencing homelessness may lack the resources to educate themselves about candidates or may not be able to get to the polls on Election Day.
To overcome these obstacles and encourage greater voter participation among low income and homeless citizens, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and other national advocacy groups are collaborating to co-sponsor National Homeless and Low Income Voter Registration initiatives such as the National Homeless and Low-Income Voter Registration Week on September 26 - October 2, 2010. This manual seeks to promote voting access for low income and homeless persons to ensure that people who are economically disadvantaged maintain an active role and voice in shaping their future. The manual is designed to provide ideas to help overcome the many obstacles that prevent people experiencing homelessness from becoming registered, active voters. In the manual we outline multiple strategies to register, educate, and mobilize voters. We also provide information about common legal issues facing homeless voters, several State-by-State Charts of Homeless People’s Voting Rights, and selected court decisions that have expressly protected homeless persons’ voting rights.
By working together with homeless persons, low income individuals, and advocates around the country, our organizations hope to help homeless and low income persons make their voices heard on Election Day.
The National Coalition for the Homeless does not support or oppose any political candidate or party. Our informational materials are strictly for educational purposes and suggest no endorsement, bias, or preference. Citizens make their electoral decisions based on a broad range of information. Nothing in this guide to organizing a Candidates’ Forum is meant to suggest that a person’s vote should be cast on the basis of a single issue or event.
NOTE: All voter registration services by 501(c)(3) organizations must be non-partisan. Non-partisan means that the activity or program shall not be influenced by, affiliated with, or supportive of the interest or policies of any political party or candidate. Support for candidates of two different parties in an election (“bipartisanship”) is not a non-partisan activity.
Download full report as pdf | Acknowledgements | Introduction | Overcoming Agency Resistance | Frequently Asked Questions by Organizations about Conducting Voter Registration | Incorporating Voter Registration into the Intake Process | Conducting a Successful Voter Registration Drive | Overcoming Resistance by Individuals | Frequently Asked Questions by Individuals | Conducting a Voter Registration Party | Registering Tenants to Vote | Having Candidates Volunteer at Your Agency | Holding a Candidate Forum on Housing and Homelessness | Media Tips for Hosting Events | Letter Writing Power Hour | Leading Up to Election Day | On Election Day | Voting & Registration Information Flyer | Legal Issues and Practical Barriers to Voting for Homeless People | State-by-State Chart of Homeless People’s Voting Rights | State-by-State Chart of Disenfranchisement Categories | State-by-State Chart of ID Requirements | State-by-State Chart of Registration Deadlines & Residency Requirements | Court Decisions on Homeless People’s Voting Rights | Sample Phone Script | Sample Invitation Letter | Sample Media Advisory | Sample Press Release