168. The Homeless and Voting



Voter registration at Salvation Army in Bremerton Washington (Source AP)


I’ve often wondered how the homeless of our country get a voice in the political arena of this country. Our constitution gives the promise of a “government by the people” but when one considers the homeless of this country, this is a population that is often considered invisible in the voting polls.

Over the decades great gains have been made in voting rights for all Americans. The list of voting reforms over the years has gradually included many groups of Americans who were discriminated against with voting rules. We have made some significant changes from the original constitutional requirement only allowing white,male property owners the right to place a vote for the governement of this country. Over the years voting policies have discriminated against Irish-Catholic immigrants, Native Americans, African Americans and female citizens . When it comes to the homeless there has been little effort to recognize the unique problems that this population faces  due to their inability to provide a mailing address. A recent article, More Homeless Expected to Vote This Fall, outlines an  effort to include more  homeless Americans in  our next election .

“Just because we’re homeless or low income doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion,” said Estelle Bearcub, who plans to vote for Barack Obama. “It’s our right to vote. And it’s our right to have our opinion count, too.”

 Being homeless doesn’t make a person less politcally mindful, nor does being homeless render people less valued by the Constitution that provides rights for all Americans.  The diversity of political interests among the homeless is just a diverse as that of other populations of Americans.


Portland’s homeless pay especially close attention to laws prohibiting sitting or lying on sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Anti-camping laws prevent them from storing bedding on public property.

“I heard many a discussion about which city councilor supported the sidewalk and anti-camping laws,” Nolen said. “Those types of decisions affect them a lot more than other voters.”

Given the abundance of local governments that create ordinances that only offer punitive actions against our homeless citizens I would say that all homeless Americans should excercise their right to vote & make their opinons known. All Americans should recognize the merits of a government that places  our attentions to the domestic duty of facing the problem of homelessness with funding that offers solutions to homelessness in America.  It’s amazing how the welfare of the homeless is in the hands of those who have no interest in providing support and solutions to help people out of homelessness due to the invisible nature of this group of Americans.  Like most issues in government, unopposed policies prevent progress in homeless issues.

Volunteers encourage transient voters to use the address of the shelter or soup kitchen they frequent in order to receive an absentee ballot. In states that require a physical address, voters can list a park or intersection where they sleep.

For all states, in order to register to vote, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, a legal resident of the state, and 18 years old on or before election day. This is a step in the right direction to include the homeless their constitutional right to vote.  Certainly it is progress in the voting rights of all citizens.

 There is some irony in rallying our homeless populations to participate in the upcoming elections. This usually invisible segment of our population goes largely unseen during non election years. I hope that they will not be forgotten once they excercise there Constitution right to vote~ all Americans deserve to be acknowledged in our “government by the people”,not just those who have a home.



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