In recent years, there has been an unprecedented attack on homeless and poor persons’ right to vote, including the passage of state laws adding barriers to voter registration, cutting early voting, requiring photo IDs at the polls, and disenfranchising those with felony records. In particular, photo ID laws create obstacles to voting for individuals who do not possess the correct type of identification or the needed documentation and money to procure identification. These laws disproportionately impact homeless, poor, minority, elderly, and student voters.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) fights to protect the rights of homeless voters. This week, NLCHP, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Wisconsin, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s restrictive new photo ID law. Under the law, Wisconsin voters will need to present a certain type of photo ID, which many eligible voters do not have, in order to cast a ballot. The law will have a severe impact on homeless voters, many of whom will be unable to meet the state’s complicated requirements for getting an ID. “By limiting participation to Wisconsin residents with photo identification, this law effectively silences homeless persons’ voices,” said Heather Johnson, NLCHP’s civil rights attorney. “With homelessness rising by 12 percent in Wisconsin since the recession began, we cannot allow the state to set this dangerous and unconscionable precedent.”
NLCHP also partnered with six other national organizations in 2007 to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court challenging Indiana’s photo ID law as creating unconstitutional obstacles to the right to vote.
In addition to litigation, NLCHP provides technical assistance to advocates and publishes a Voting Rights Report before every presidential election cycle. This publication offers specific information on state and federal laws that affect homeless individuals’ voting rights, such as residency and mailing address requirements and provisions designed to help homeless voters register.
As part of this ongoing advocacy to protect the rights of homeless voters, NLCHP is conducting its 2011 Barriers to Voting Survey for services providers, advocates, and persons who are currently or formerly homeless. The results of the survey will be published in NLCHP’s forthcoming Voting Rights Report. The survey, which will take approximately 15 minutes to complete, can be found here. Please feel free to invite others to participate by forwarding the link. NLCHP will be raffling off several $25 Amazon gift cards among participants who complete the entire survey by December 31st.
If you have any questions, please contact NLCHP’s civil rights attorney Heather Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 638-2535.