Homeless face unique challenges to voting

Homeless face unique challenges to voting
One demographic of voters often overlooked is those experiencing homelessness. Casting a ballot requires getting registered to vote and getting registered requires an address. (Source: Pexels/stock image)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In less than two weeks, dozens of polling locations will open and millions of people will cast a ballot for the president of the United States. Every election year, political parties, governments and activists make concerted efforts to drive voter turnout.

One demographic of voters often overlooked is those experiencing homelessness. Casting a ballot requires getting registered to vote and getting registered requires an address.

Marie Elena Roland is in charge of the Navigation Center, a facility that helps homeless people get housing. She says some of her clients use the facility’s address on their voter registration.

“Believe it or not a lot of our homeless have P.O. boxes,” Roland said. “Some of them have mail that is sent to family members.”

This year there is a push to help some of these people get registered to vote.

“We feed every night, and one group that volunteers on the first Thursday of every month is the Democratic Party,” Roland said. “They came out and set up a registration booth.”

Charleston Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Condon says everyone should be able to vote.

“Making it easy to vote, and it should be easy, should increase the number of people who turn up. I think it is definitely something we should all look at,” Condon said.

Roland says what she found was that many of the people experiencing homelessness were already registered.

“It’s surprising, especially considering the conditions they are living under right now,” Roland said. “At some point they were stable, but to have them update it and make sure they are still able to vote. I think that is a good thing that they see that as important even in the crisis they’re living under.”

One of the bigger problems, Roland argues, is simply getting to the polls. One solution is a program through CARTA for free transportation on election day to the polls.

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