If you’re homeless, what to do to vote in the March 15 primary election

By Niya Kelly, CCH Policy Specialist

Illinois residents who are homeless have the right to vote in the Tuesday, March 15 primary election even if they are not yet registered to vote. You are considered homeless if you are living on the street, in shelters, or doubled-up in the homes of others.

The following explains what a homeless person must do to vote in the upcoming election.CCH Logo

To register to vote, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be born on or before November 8, 1998 (turning 18 by the general election next November).
  • Not be in prison or jail serving time for a conviction, and,
  • Not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

In order to register to vote, Illinois requires that a homeless person be able to receive mail at the address provided on his/her voter registration form.  

Examples of an acceptable address include a relative’s home, or a drop-in center or shelter that accepts clients’ mail. Once registered, the voter’s polling place is selected based on the address provided on the registration form. If experiencing homelessness, the voter is permitted to return to this polling place as long as the address they listed remains the place where they receive their mail.

The ability to vote is not dependent on having your own home. Like everyone else, homeless people feel the direct effects of decisions made by political leaders elected to represent our community. It is important that people experiencing homelessness know that they can and should exercise their right to vote.

The following guidelines can help people experiencing homelessness exercise their right to vote, as protected by state and federal law, including the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act of 2013.

Those in need of direct assistance on Election Day can call these help desks:

  • Chicago Board of Elections, (312) 269-7870
  • Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office, (312) 603-5656
  • The Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., 1 (800) 940-1119.


On Tuesday, March 15, a voter may register at the precinct polling place assigned to his/her residential mailing address.

You are required to bring two (2) forms of identification (ID), including one that shows proof of residence/mailing address.

What are acceptable forms of ID to vote?

Acceptable forms of ID include mail postmarked to the applicant; an Illinois driver’s license or state ID; an employee or student ID; Social Security card; birth certificate; credit card; valid U.S. passport; lease or rental contract.


Grace Period registration and voting extends the legal registration period by allowing voters to register and vote until the Monday before an election. The current Grace Period will expire on Monday, March 14. Voters can register and vote in person at designated early voting locations.

During the Grace Period, you must register in person and vote during the same visit. You also must present two (2) forms of identification, with one that shows the current address at which you receive mail, as explained above.

To find Chicago early voting sites:  http://www.chicagoelections.com/en/grace-period-registration-and-voting.html

To find suburban Cook County early voting sites: http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/registertovote/Pages/GracePeriod.aspx


Identification is not necessary if the homeless voter:

  • Already registered to vote at the polling place
  • The signature s/he provides matches the one on file
  • An election judge does not challenge the person’s right to vote

Identification is necessary if the homeless voter:

  • Registered by mail and did not include the Illinois identification/driver’s license number or Social Security number.
  • Or, an election judge challenges the person’s right to vote. Please note: A common reason for challenging a person’s right to vote occurs after the Board of Elections has sent mail to verify a voter’s mailing address, but the mail was returned to sender.

If a voter needs to show ID but cannot present ID, s/he may cast a provisional ballot.  In order for that provisional ballot to be counted, the voter must present ID within seven (7) days of the election to their Board of Election.


If you moved within the same precinct within 27 days of the election, you can vote a full ballot by signing an affidavit.

If you moved outside of your precinct more than 30 days before the election and did not register in your new precinct, you may grace-period update your registration through Election Day and then grace-period vote.

If you moved outside of your precinct less than 30 days before the election, but still live in Illinois and did not transfer your registration, you may grace-period update your registration to your new address through Election Day and grace-period vote. Or, you can vote a full ballot in your old polling place after completing an affidavit.