Center for Vulnerable Voters
Homeless Persons Voting Issues2023-03-05T20:37:28+00:00

Homeless Americans are some of the most vulnerable of all voters.  For those who are working to protect the votes of the homeless in their communities, know that there are different approaches and considerations for the homeless who are living in shelters verses those who are unsheltered.  Information is provided on this page about these different groups.

Unfortunately, U.S. military veterans comprise a large number of the homeless population.  The sacrifices these individuals made to protect our right to vote require that we work together to ensure that those homeless veterans who wish to vote are able to do so – and that those who do not wish to vote are respected.

People experiencing homelessness, either short-term or long-term, can register and vote in all 50 states. Usually, states recommend homeless persons register using a local shelter address, but other location data such as street corners or parks can be used as address locations.

Many states do have residency policies establishing duration of residency in-state. For more information, contact local election officials in the relevant county using our Voting Information Center.

The Homeless Population Challenge

Total Homelessness

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

Military Veteran Homelessness

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

How to Help

In 2020, there were 354,386 homeless Americans living in shelters, and 226,080 Americans experiencing homelessness who were unsheltered

In terms of protecting the votes of this vulnerable constituency, the two groups should be cared for differently.

Homeless shelter and group home residents

It’s important for those who run homeless shelters and group homes to ensure that outsiders visiting are not attempting to coerce votes.  Staff for group homes and shelters must make themselves aware of state laws in terms of who is allowed to assist in requesting ballots, and who is allowed to help complete ballots and return ballots.

Residents of shelters and group homes servicing the homeless should be treated with the utmost compassion and respect.  If they wish to vote, that is their right.  If they choose not to vote, they should not be compelled to do so.  Many reports come to our attention that often well-meaning staff members are so strongly encouraging homeless residents to vote that it can be perceived as a requirement for living in the facility.  This should not occur.

Pay attention to the laws in your area and ensure that the rules regarding who can return ballots are being followed.  “Stranger Danger” is important.  Do not allow residents to give their ballots to someone else.  It is always best to remit your ballot yourself, in person.  Shelters can arrange transportation to make this possible.

It’s important all Americans have the ability to vote but also have the right to make the choice that is best for them.

Unsheltered residents

Unfortunately, the practice of paying for votes continues even in 2022.  Though likely not widespread, reports have come to our attention of homeless individuals being offered meals, housing and / or cash in exchange for their vote in local, state and federal elections.

Other reports have come through about homeless Americans being made to feel guilty for not participating in the voting process.  While we want all legal Americans to exercise their civic duty, there are reasons a homeless individual may not feel they have the capacity to properly execute this important right.  That decision should be respected.

Those who volunteer with the homeless are encouraged to create a relationship and determine how to best fulfill the wishes of the homeless person.  If they wish to vote, help them do so according to the local laws in your area.  Ensure that they are able to cast their vote for the candidate in whom they have interest.  Listen to them if they have experienced vote coercion – or if they are aware of attempts to purchase or coerce votes from their friends. Anonymous reports to the Center’s vote fraud hotline will be investigated and addressed.

Vulnerable Voters Training Guide

Residential Facility and Skilled Nursing Home Staff Training Guide

Pro Tips for Poll Workers

Engage with Groups2022-09-23T19:18:07+00:00

If you are stationed outside the polling location during early voting or election day, engage in conversations with groups being dropped off to vote.  Let them know you are happy they are there to vote, ensure they have what they need to vote successfully.  Your conversations can help ensure they are exercising their right to vote of their own free will.

Watch… and Report2022-09-23T19:17:15+00:00

Engage in “mindful watching.”  If you see someone who appears to be coerced into voting, call the vote fraud hotline.

Know the Voting Laws2022-09-23T19:16:34+00:00

Be sure to know the voting laws in your state as it pertains to proof of residency, identification and early voting.  Know how these laws impact your homeless residents.

Research the Vote

Do you have reason to believe someone else may have voted on behalf of your client or loved one? Find out here!

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