Voting: How people experiencing homelessness can register to vote

Updated Nov. 5

By Niya Kelly, State Legislative Director

Illinois residents who are homeless have the right to vote in the state and national election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, even if they are not yet registered to vote. The 2018 election will decide many key offices, including governor, state legislators, and U.S. House members.

If you live on the street, in shelters, or doubled-up in the homes of others, you are considered homeless.

You can check online to see if you’re registered:

You can register to vote on Election Day!

Any Illinois resident can register to vote on Election Day at the precinct polling place assigned to his/her/their residential mailing address — that is, the address provided on one’s state I.D. or driver’s license.

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

What are acceptable forms of ID?

Acceptable forms of ID include mail postmarked to the applicant; an Illinois driver’s license or state ID card; a municipal ID card (for example, the Chicago CityKey); an employee or student ID; Social Security card; birth certificate; credit card; valid U.S. passport; lease or rental contract.

As one form of ID, a homeless person can provide a letter from a drop-in center, shelter or the person in whose home they are living doubled-up. The letter must confirm that the named person has permission to use their address for the purpose of registering to vote.

People experiencing homelessness can exercise their right to vote, as protected by state and federal laws, including the 2013 Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.

To register to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen, be 18 years old on or before Election Day, not be currently incarcerated for a conviction, and not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

In Illinois, if you have a driver’s license or state ID card, you could have registered online through the Illinois State Board of Elections website if you did so by October 21.

When is ID needed and not needed to vote? 

Organizer Keith Freeman registering a voter before the 2016 election.

Identification is not necessary if the homeless voter has already registered to vote at the polling place; the signature s/he provides matches the one on file; and an election judge does not challenge the person’s right to vote.

But identification is necessary if the homeless voter faces these situations:

– S/he registered by mail and did not include the Illinois ID/driver’s license number or Social Security number;

– 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.

– 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 the Board of Election.

Voting after a recent move, whether homeless or housed

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.

For Election Day assistance, call these legal help desks:

– Chicago Board of Elections, (312) 269-7870

– Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office, (312) 603-0236

– Illinois State Board of Elections has phone numbers in Chicago at (312) 814-6440, and in Springfield at (217) 782-4141. Operators will be standing by until 11 p.m in Chicago and until 12 midnight in Springfield.

Editor’s Note: As usual on election days, Niya Kelly plans to volunteer as an election attorney with the Chicago Board of Elections.