Since I started experiencing homelessness six years ago, I’ve moved more times than I can count. That, as you might guess, makes life pretty complicated. Along with all the more obvious challenges that come with housing insecurity, there’s one in particular that I care deeply about, and that needs our attention now more than ever: voting access.
Using your freedom to vote is the best way to participate in democracy. Every person has a different opinion on how things should happen in government, which is why our democracy is stronger when more voices are heard. Together we agree on the big changes that need to happen to keep us moving forward. From Seattle’s transportation system to Washington’s housing crisis to national tax policy, our votes affect everything from the local to the federal level. Here’s what I know: If more people experiencing homelessness could vote reliably, we could see powerful change.
That’s why the 2018 legislative session is so exciting. Our state legislators are considering some voting rights bills that could increase representation and voting access across Washington. For people dealing with housing insecurity, one bill in particular would make a real difference: Automatic Voter Registration.
Automatic Voter Registration is a simple and secure way to help more people make their voices heard. With Automatic Voter Registration, eligible Washingtonians would be registered to vote when interacting with certain government agencies unless they opt out. Automatic Voter Registration can also update an existing registration if a voter has changed addresses since the last time they voted.
I’m a busy woman. Between my job as a Real Change vendor, my work in homelessness advocacy and time spent looking for housing, keeping my registration up-to-date can be complicated. For me and other people experiencing homelessness, Automatic Voter Registration would be a big help. If passed, Automatic Voter Registration will work with the Health Benefit Exchange and other service providers on which many people facing poverty rely. That means that more of us would be registered to vote and encouraged to make our voices heard.
When you don’t have a permanent address or reliable access to a computer or smartphone, voting gets really complicated. Our government should be doing everything it can to help voters take part in democracy, like passing Automatic Voter Registration.
I want to see a Washington where every person has a home, where transportation is affordable and efficient, where no one experiences poverty and where everyone is a good neighbor. All of us, including people experiencing homelessness, are human beings with stories to tell. We all deserve to have a voice in government, and that starts with being registered to vote. Call your legislators today at 800.562.6000 and tell them to support Automatic Voter Registration!
Lisa Sawyer is a Real Change vendor, president of the Real Change Advisory Board, a member of the Resident Action Council and a housing advocate.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full Jan. 31 - Feb. 6 issue.