tents under overpass
People can register to vote using a nearby address if they are living unsheltered. (David Lee/Flickr)

SEATTLE - How do you vote by mail in Washington if you don't have an address? People who are homeless have some options to get their ballots counted in the Evergreen State.

Hillary Coleman, community projects manager with Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, says it's important to understand there is a difference between a mailing address and a residential address - and that folks can use their mailing address to register to vote.

"Most people might have somewhere where they get checks - for example, if they're on Social Security, or somewhere where a loved one might send a piece of mail," says Coleman. "And so, we talk about using that address to register."

Coleman says a person can register to vote using any address, including an intersection near where they're staying or a shelter, even if they don't get mail there. She says some people get their mail through case managers or low-barrier options, like the Compass Center Day Services in downtown Seattle.

Part of Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness's education work involves going out to day centers, meal programs or organized tent cities - places where people who are unsheltered are likely to be during the day.

Coleman says one important law to know about is the Voting Rights Restoration Act. Passed in 2008, it ensures that anyone with a felony can vote once they're done reporting to the Department of Corrections.

"A lot of people still don't know about that, and when we get someone saying they can't vote, that's the most common reason why someone might think they can't vote," says Coleman.

Coleman adds they have volunteers who have experienced homelessness helping with voter engagement.

"I think they're some of the greatest messengers to talk about voting, because they will talk about what it felt like the first time that someone voted, and how it did feel empowering to fill in that ballot and have a say in society," says Coleman.

In past elections, Washington state has had in-person voting centers, but COVID-19 could limit their availability.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

(3) comments

Desert Dweller

Anybody ever heard of "ballot harvesting"?

JohnQPublic

A socialist, hoping to make it easier for people relying on social programs to vote for more socialism. That sounds reasonable.

70coug

Or just mark all homeless addresses DNC and one (or more if necessary to achieve the desired result) premarked Democrat balllots will automatically be mailed in. Or for added convenience, just added to the vote tally.

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