The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider expanding services to help the area’s homeless population vote in upcoming elections.
At the Sept. 17 meeting, the Board’s consent calendar includes an item from Supervisor Solis to instruct staff to conduct additional outreach to service providers, consider shelters or nearby facilities as vote centers, establish pop-up vote centers near services, continue voter registration efforts at homeless shelters and report back to the Board in 90 days with updates.
According to Board staff, homelessness brings additional challenges to those who want to vote.
“These barriers may include changing addresses and access to transportation. Voting in person also requires adequate time that may cause additional challenges for residents experiencing homelessness because they are often navigating housing and job markets and different systems of care,” said the staff report.
The upcoming item is an expansion of existing efforts.
“In 2016, Los Angeles County (the County) approved strategies to combat homelessness. One such strategy includes the requirement that the Registrar Recorder/County Clerk, in partnership with other agencies, assist residents experiencing homelessness with voter registration and access to vital records,” said the staff report. “This includes providing informational materials and targeted outreach for residents experiencing homelessness.”
According to the County, 2,100 voters have listed their address as a cross-street, suggesting they are homeless. While voters that list a shelter or those that use their most recent address might also be homeless, the report says that with 58,936 people identified as homeless during the last county, the numbers show a need for more outreach efforts.
Part of the impetus for the expansion is a new voting model coming to the county. Beginning with the March 3 Presidential Primary election, the county will implement the Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) initiative.
“The new VSAP model includes establishing vote centers throughout the County to serve all voters over an 11- day voting period,” said county staff. “This will allow voters to vote at any voting location in the County — regardless of where they live or work. Additionally, eligible residents will be able to register to vote or update their voter registration at any vote center up to and including on Election Day.”
The motion asks officials to evaluate if homeless shelters or other service providers can become vote centers in March.
“The County’s obligation to enfranchise as many voters as possible extends to residents regardless of their housing stability,” said the staff report.
In 2018, several individuals were charged with conducting a voter fraud scam using on L.A.’s skid row. Individuals offered to pay homeless residents for their signatures on ballot propositions. While it is legal to pay individuals to gather signatures, it’s not legal to pay individuals to participate in a petition.