Being Homeless Doesn't Disqualify You From Voting In Washington
When you register to vote, you have to write down where you live. But what if you’re homeless? As it turns out, in Washington state that doesn’t disqualify you, but it can make voting more challenging. Alison Eisinger is in charge of voter outreach at the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. She says this is crunch time; the voter registration deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 11. She and volunteers have been visiting tent cities, shelters and food banks to sign people up to vote.
“We have already registered, since September 27th, 121 people to vote,” said Eisinger.
And that's on top of several hundred they registered in May. Eisinger says it's important that people, regardless of their housing situation, be able to participate in the democratic process.
In Washington state, she says in order to determine what legislative district live in, you are required to say where you normally reside, but it doesn’t have to be a traditional address.
"For example, a street intersection is acceptable in our state,” she said.
You do, however, need an actual address for the ballot to be sent to.
Eisinger says the state's vote by mail system, while touted as a convenience, can actually make things more difficult for people who are homeless. Eisinger says people she’s registering are using post office or social service agency addresses or using a friend or relative's home address.
"The are hoping that they can make it there in in time to get their ballot and voters guide,” Eisinger said.
Eisinger says, when she's meeting with people in homeless camps, she spends a lot of time clearing up the misperception that people who have been convicted of felonies can’t vote. She says that is not the case in Washington state. Here you can vote as a felon, unless you are currently under the supervision of the Washington Department of Corrections.