Voting is one of the basic rights society gives to any individual. It is considered to be a part of one’s individual freedom to choose who they want to vote for. Restricting someone from voting without any legal authority or jurisdiction is a crime. However, that’s not the case when it comes to the right to vote among people experiencing homelessness. Individuals experiencing homelessness face several obstacles in the voting process as compared to those having a residential address. These obstacles are often seen as if their right to vote has been seized.
As said earlier, it is often understood that homelessness places a barrier to one’s right to vote. In the past, states required each voter to show proof of residence before casting the vote. Fortunately, this rule no longer applies to any of the 50 states. Now the states only require the voters to mention their residence or simply the place where they sleep at night. This place can be anywhere; transitional housing, a tent, or a bench on the streetside. That being said, one thing is for certain none of the 50 states seize a person’s right to vote if he or she is experiencing homelessness.
Despite the fact that people experiencing homelessness can cast a ballot, there are a lot of systematic challenges that prevent them from doing so.
- Mailing Address
Although no state requires the voter to show proof of residency anymore, they definitely require them to provide their mailing address where they can receive voting-related materials. Individuals who are experiencing homelessness often face the challenge of providing a mailing address. However, the good news is that this mailing address can be anywhere you can receive your mail. If you have someone who’s willing to receive the mail on your behalf, you can provide their mailing address to cast your ballot.
- Identification Document
Many states require all of the voters to provide their ID documents for verification. This can be their social security card, state-issued ID card, driver’s license, or any other valid document that represents their identity. Some other states even demand a photo ID for verification purposes. If someone’s casting a vote for the first time, they’ll have to go through an even stricter documentation process as compared to those who regularly cast votes. People experiencing homelessness often do not have identification and other documents which can be a hindrance in the voting process.
Because of the lack of social connections, people experiencing homelessness find it difficult to locate polling stations. Even if they identify themselves, transportation becomes another barrier to casting a vote. Most of the time, the polling places are located far away from the places individuals experiencing homelessness live. Luckily, there are some voter-rights organizations that provide solutions to such challenges such as providing transportation services to these individuals to the polling stations and back.
- Voting Procedure
Lack of social connections leads to little community awareness among individuals experiencing homelessness. It results in them being unaware of the election process in their states, people running for office, and the registration documents required for voter registration. Developing connections might help them develop community awareness and stay updated with what’s going on in their city or state.
Despite all the challenges facing the people experiencing homelessness when it comes to casting a vote, states and nonprofit organizations, such as The Voting Rights Alliance, together are gradually working on modifying the voting process. Over the years, some requirements have been cut down and others have been changed to make the process a little easier for everyone. We’re hopeful that in the years to come, we’ll be able to see a system where everyone, regardless of their residency status, shall be able to participate in the ballot.
Check out how we help people experiencing homelessness become self-sustainable which will pave a way for them to cast vote and live a better life.