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Homeless Right To Vote


The homeless have the right to vote, despite what some politicians may think. They do not have to live a a traditional house or have a mailing address. They still have the right to vote. Below is a look at the Homeless Voting Rights Act as outlined by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The act addresses many problems that homeless people face when trying to register to vote including: definitions of a domicile, non-traditional homes, and homeless provider. Also it makes provisions for voter outreach, location of polling places, challenge of voters, right of appeal, verification processes, qualifications, residency, equal treatment, registration including: deadlines, mail registration, absentee, and in person registration.

Although the homeless have the right to vote, many states like North Carolina have not adopted an official voting rights statute for the homeless. Below is information provided by the National Coalition for the Homeless Model State Homeless Voter Registration Act. This piece of legislation has been used as a model for other states. The act helps to reduce barriers that homeless people face when trying to register to vote. The act deals with all aspects of voter registration for the homeless. First to define a domicile which is the place where a person lives and has an intent of returning. This does not have to be a regular house or apartment. A person can live in non-traditional abodes, including shelters, parks, shanties, underpasses, and cars and still have the right to vote. Regarding qualifications, if a person is 18 years or older, a resident who is mentally competent, and who is not currently in prison or on parole for a felony conviction, and who is registered, can vote.

The act provides protection for people whose rights are challenged simply on the basis of not having a regular home. It states that a person living in a shelter or a park is a resident of the election district in which the shelter is located. Also, homeless people can use the address of a homeless provider.

Many homeless people experience problems with registration deadlines. The act provides that registration for an election should close at 8:00 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday before the election. Provisions are available for "late registration." If a person fails to register by the deadline they can register in person by 5:00 p.m. on the day before the election.

Once registered, the person will receive a certificate of registration to present at the polls on election day. This provides opportunities to the many homeless people who are not aware of deadlines, with little or no access to the media. A person may also register to vote by mail. This allows the employees of soup kitchens and shelters to help people in filling out the cards and dropping them in the mail. In reference to a mailing address, homeless people can provide any type of mailing address including: a post office box, general delivery, a shelter, or a soup kitchen. The city/county registrar is required to maintain a list of shelters and soup kitchens that have agreed to allow registered voters to receive mail there. In absence of a mailing address, the city/county clerks office may be used.

All applicants who were refused registration have a right to appeal the refusal to the county circuit court within 30 days. Appeals shall be heard in a timely fashion so as to enable those whose appeal is successful to vote in the upcoming election. Voter Identification Cards normally are sent to a person within 10 days of registering to vote; however, homeless persons can pick up their cards from the registrar.



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