To vote in Washington state, people need to meet a few criteria.
You must be over 18. You need to be a citizen of the United States and have lived in Washington for 30 days. You can have committed a felony, but you may not be currently under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections.
You do not need a home.
The National Coalition for the Homeless released guidance in March for the 2016 election encouraging agencies to help their clients experiencing homelessness register to vote, if eligible.
According to the coalition, most states allow voters to use a shelter address, a description of a general location where they spend the night or a drawn map as a recorded address.
That is true in Washington as well, even though the state now votes entirely by mail, according to the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH).
The “residential” address determines what ballot the Elections office sends. Voters must also provide a mailing address, which can belong to a friend, relative, shelter or general delivery at a post office. If you use general delivery, you must have an ID to pick up your ballot.
Unlike other countries that have a national holiday to vote, enroll people automatically or have a voting mandate, the United States does not always make it easy to participate in its democratic institutions. That doesn’t stop low-income voters from showing up, however.
Studies on volunteer-led voter drives at welfare offices show that 70 percent of people registered in this way show up to the polls for presidential elections. That’s compared to 57.5 percent of the electorate in 2012 and 62.3 percent in 2008.
So get a voter registration form at your local post office, library, fire station, Department of Motor Vehicles, social services office, county elections office or wherever else a registration drive may be taking place. Issues facing homeless and low-income people are present up and down the ballot, and their voices need to be heard.
Voter registration for the Nov. 8 election ends on Oct. 10.