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Homelessness, eviction, foreclosure and your vote

Posted by Rona Fischman November 4, 2008 02:52 PM

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Please, letís not talk about the candidates here today. There are other places to discuss them. Please no political party name-calling!

What I want to bring up is the intersection of housing and voter rights. There has been much made of disenfranchising citizens due to their homelessness and foreclosure. Whatever happens today, there will be people who believe their vote was taken away, and there will be people who believe that illegitimate people were allowed to vote.

Now letís muddy the waters with some data sources:

In Massachusetts, if you were registered to vote and have moved, you can still vote in your old district for 18 months. You are permitted to vote for national and statewide candidates and ballot questions, but not for local candidates. This should help people in our state who were forced to move due to foreclosure. Here, too, there has been an effort to register homeless people through the shelter system. So, if you have registered, in Massachusetts, your housing status should not stop you from voting. If you are not on the voter rolls, you can try to vote with a provisional ballot. Here are the rules. You need suitable identification to get a provisional ballot. If your ID is verified, your vote will count. However, it is not clear what defines ďsuitable identification,Ē so bring anything and everything you have that shows your name and address.

Nationally, things are different. Citizens who had an address change because of foreclosure or eviction may get purged. Their records have a mismatched address. Rules about homeless voters vary from state to state. As do rules for provisional voting. The New York Times has been following the issue of the purging of voter rolls in several battleground states.

Can we all agree that citizens of our country should be able to vote, even if they were recently evicted, foreclosed upon or have become homeless? Can we also agree that ballots should not be cast by dead people or by other fraudulent means?

How should voter registration be verified? Should we all have passports? Driverís licenses or state liquor IDs. IRS database?

What should be the cut-off for record purging?

I am hoping that this election will be settled tonight, or at least this week. I am hoping that every legitimate vote gets counted. Am I a dreamer?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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