How do you vote if you are homeless? | KUOW News and Information

How do you vote if you are homeless?

Nov 4, 2016

Most people receive their election ballots in the mail at their homes. But how does voting work for people who don't have homes? 


Kurt McGill has it all figured out. “I’m the smartest person in Seattle,” he said from his seat outside the Seattle Public Library downtown branch.

McGill picked up his ballot at a homeless shelter. “I've got a mailing address at the Bread of Life, and I’m a registered voter," he said.

Whatever obstacle a person runs into when trying to vote, McGill told me "there's always a way around it."

But, you know, sometimes stuff happens. 

I met a man named Scorpio at the Airport Way South camp who told me he'd had his ballot in his backpack, but lost it when his backpack was stolen. "I'm pretty sure I had that mail in there," he said.

That doesn’t mean he can’t vote, said Kendall Hodson of King County Elections. Even if you've already been mailed a ballot, you can print out another. When two ballots are issued, the elections staff will only count the first ballot they receive from any individual.

“We’ve had a lot of people actually go to libraries and go online to access their ballot, and actually print it out there and send it back to us," said Hodson. It could cost you 15 cents a page to print out, though.

If that's a problem, you can go to what’s called an accessible voting center. Union Station, in Seattle, is one. There are other spots in Renton and Bellevue.

Scott E. said he would vote, but right now he has to concentrate on finding a new place to pitch his tent. He's being swept by the city from his spot under the freeway at Cherry Street.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

But even with those options, that doesn’t mean you have time to vote. Life is full of bumps, especially when you're living outside.

Scott E. said the city of Seattle told him he has to move his tent out from under the freeway at Cherry Street. “And now I've got to worry about where I’m gonna move, where I’m gonna be at, scout out another place. So I ain’t got time to go think about Trump or Hillary.”

Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, November 8.