Voter Engagement Matters in Ending Homelessness
September 22, 2020
by Danielle Hubley
Policy Analyst, Partnership for Strong Communities
Today is National Voter Registration Day, a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating our democracy. It is an opportunity for volunteers and organizations from all over the country to coordinate field, media and technology efforts to increase awareness and to help register voters who may not register otherwise.
The staff at PSC have been exploring how the experience of homelessness intersects with the process of voting and the influence and impact that homelessness has on our democracy. We’re here to talk about why voting should matter to you and how you can shape the future of housing and homelessness policy with your vote.
“It is a misconception that a lot of people who are experiencing homelessness don’t vote. They do, but they have issues with things like registering. If you move frequently, you have to keep up with registration.” – Eric Samuels, president of the Texas Homeless Network
In the midst of a global health pandemic and an important presidential election set for November, it is imperative we reflect on how our democratic process impacts the communities we live in and the experiences we have. Connecticut’s Secretary of State’s office has fought hard to ensure voters can request an absentee ballot by identifying COVID-19 related concerns as the reason for their request, but what if you don’t have access to a mailbox?
Emergency shelters have served as the mailing address for citizens experiencing homelessness in the past, but with many shelters closed or operating at limited capacity during the pandemic, there are many concerns about the accessibility of voting for those without a permanent address. People experiencing homelessness encounter barriers when trying to access registration forms, internet access, and the ability to vote by mail.
A lack of representation at the polls - from those who have experienced homelessness or those who are working to end experiences of homelessness in any capacity – has been demonstrated to affect public policy. Studies find that increased turnout among higher-income households (those who face less barriers in voting) leads to polices that reduce taxation at higher income brackets, while increased turnout among lower-income households increases support for safety net programs.
It is more important now than ever to maintain voting rights and voting access for all citizens in our state, and to register new voters or voters who need to re-register at a new address. Voting can make a difference in shifting the public and political will needed to make experiences of homelessness rare, brief, and one-time in Connecticut.
Registering to vote is only the first step in the democratic process, however. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can use your vote to create necessary and important housing and homelessness policy change, stay tuned! PSC will be exploring this topic in further detail and sharing resources and information in the weeks leading up to the general election on November 3rd, 2020.