Today’s Read: Yes, You Can Vote If You Are Homeless

On Tuesday, New Yorkers will head to the polls to vote for the next President, as well as a U.S. Senator, U.S. Representatives, State Senators and State Assemblymembers. Thanks to the Pitts v. Black lawsuit brought by the Coalition in 1984, homeless New Yorkers will also be able to exercise their right to vote.

There are many reasons why homeless New Yorkers should vote – tackling deep poverty and record homelessness necessitates a concerted effort by federal, state and local policymakers. Coalition staff and volunteers have been doing outreach in shelters and through our programs to make sure homeless men and women know that they have the right to vote even if they do not have a permanent address – whether they’re sleeping in a shelter or on the streets.

Brigid Bergin reported on homeless voting for WNYC:

When voters head to the polls for next Tuesday’s presidential election, anyone who is registered can cast a ballot — even people who are homeless.

That includes voters who are staying in a temporary shelter or on the street.

“You have to be a resident of the City of New York, but that doesn’t mean you have to have an [street] address,” said [NYC Board of Elections Executive Director Michael] Ryan.

People should call 311 or check online to find the poll site zoned for where they’re staying and vote there by affidavit ballot, according to the Board of Elections. People can also go back to the poll site for the address where they were registered, according to guidance sent out to shelter providers on Friday by the Department of Homeless Services.

The right for homeless people to vote in New York City dates back to a 1984 court decision, Pitts vs. Black.

The ruling broadened the definition of residence to mean whatever’s considered a person’s “home base.”

The voter registration deadline for this election has already passed, but it is crucial that homeless adults who have previously registered know where and how to vote on Tuesday. Here is some basic information for homeless voters:

  • Can I vote without a permanent address?

YES! In 1984, Coalition for the Homeless filed the lawsuit Pitts v. Black, which guaranteed the right to vote for homeless New Yorkers living in shelter, on the street, or in welfare hotels.

  • What do I need when I go to vote?

Nothing. Arrive at your poll site between 6am and 9pm on November 8th. If you’re a registered voter, you should arrive at the poll site assigned to the address where you are registered (even if this is a shelter or street corner). You do not need to show identification in order to vote. If you cannot make it to your assigned poll site, please note that you can vote in the district where you now live by requesting an affidavit ballot. For more information about your poll site, call 311 or contact the New York City Board of Elections at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

  • What should I do when I enter the poll site?

At the poll site, you will see tables and voting machines set up for your election district and others. At the table for your district, you will be asked to sign next to a facsimile of your signature on an alphabetized, computerized polling list. If your name does not appear on the roster, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot.

  • Can I vote if I have committed a felony or am currently on parole?

– If you have committed a felony and have finished your sentence: Your rights have been reinstated and you are eligible to register and vote in this year’s election.

– If you are currently on parole: You will regain your right to vote at the end of your parole period, and you may register and vote at that time.

  • What if I have trouble trying to vote?

If your name does not appear on the computerized polling list or you are told that you are not eligible to vote, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot. After Nov. 8th, the Board of Elections will check its records, and your vote will be counted if you are indeed eligible to vote. If not, you will receive a notice that you are not eligible, along with a registration application for future elections. You may also call one of the numbers listed below for assistance on the day of the election.

  • For more information or assistance, contact:

NYC Board of Elections: 1-866-VOTE-NYC (toll-free)

NYPIRG: 212-349-6460 x1166

Coalition for the Homeless: 212-776-2000