Homeless voters

“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”

                                                                                        – Lyndon B. Johnson


Voting is one of the most important rights we have has Americans. By taking part in elections, we are able to actively engage ourselves in our communities. We have the opportunity to voice our opinions on issues that are important to us. To reiterate the sentiment of our 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, voting is the greatest tool we have as Americans when dealing with issues that directly affect us. Unfortunately, there are still those who do not vote because they believe their single vote will not make a difference.

The National Coalition for the Homeless (not affiliated with us), mentioned in one of their campaigns, “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote,” that with each election, low income and homeless individuals vote at a lower rate than people with higher incomes.

Lack of motivation is not the only voting obstacle the homeless community has faced. In the past, homeless individuals were denied the ability to register to vote because they did not have a mailing address.  However, as the result of a court case in 1984, Pitts v. Black, a federal court ruled that homeless people could not be denied the right to vote just because they did not live in a “traditional” residence.

Today, all states have accepted this policy and homeless individuals are able to list a shelter, vicinity or even a park bench as their residence. Despite that victory, there is still another hurdle for some of the homeless interested in voting.

In some states, identification is required to register and/or vote. As we mentioned in a previous post, obtaining identification can be challenging for the homeless due to limited resources and lack of a secure place to store documents. Thankfully, there are programs such as IDignity which help those who are in need of identification for a variety of reasons, including their ability to vote.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, a photo ID is necessary to vote in Florida. If the voter does not have any identification with them, they can still vote by provisional ballot. The ballot will be counted as long as the signature on the ballot envelope matches the signature on the registration form.

At the Coalition, we encourage our clients to take part in their right, as Americans, to vote. We have allowed official voter registration groups on-site to register our clients and will continue to do so. We hope by providing this opportunity, our homeless residents will let their voices be heard on Election Day.