Contrary to popular belief, people do not need a home address to be able to cast votes in the U.S. Voting is a right written out in the U.S. Constitution. However, this does not guarantee that voting will be easy. As with most things, voting becomes significantly harder when someone is homeless.
A task as simple as registering to vote can become a major hurdle for many homeless people. Organizations across this state have started addressing this issue by setting up registration tables at homeless shelters. As for an address to write in on the registration form, homeless residents can use the homeless shelter’s address or even a street corner or park. Texas has no duration of residency laws but does require people to register 30 days before voting.
Voter I.D. laws have been criticized for being exclusionary of vulnerable populations in this state including homeless residents. These laws require state issued ID to present at the time of voting. Taking the time, and spending money, to get an ID made is a huge obstacle for many homeless people. Not only for voting but for obtaining a job. It takes a great deal of support to go through the hoops that are required of the state to obtain ID, especially for elderly homeless people.
Local elections are particularly important for homeless residents to cast their vote or attend town hall meetings. The city council and state government create most of the laws regarding where homeless people can camp, what citations they receive, how much money is delegated towards helping the local homeless population, etc.
The cost of an ID in Texas is $16. This allows people to register to vote and cast their vote. But in order to do either of these tasks, homeless people have to get to a registration booth and the voting booth. This requires transportation which costs money. And all of this time used to register and vote, homeless residents would rather use to earn money to eat.
During these times of lock down, social distancing and increasingly less human connection, we are determined to bring our artists and others experiencing homelessness an opportunity for self-expression and creative relief to combat the increasing risk of depression and isolation.