With hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents on the verge of losing their homes because they can’t pay rent, we must make sure those caught in the middle of a national eviction crisis are not disenfranchised this November.
Losing your home does not mean you should lose your right to vote.
Educating those evicted or facing eviction about their voting rights is critical. North Carolina election officials should inform anyone who has been forced out of their homes of their options for voting in this year’s election.
Transitioned to temporary housing?
In most cases, if you are living in temporary housing, you can use your former address as your voter registration address if you intend to return to that home.
That means if you’ve temporarily moved in with a friend or family member, you can still vote with your old address, whether it’s by absentee or in person.
First, you should confirm your current registration on youcanvote.org/register.
You have the right to update your registration to reflect your current address if you consider that place your new home.
The bottom line is that your legal voting residence is the place you consider your “permanent” home. Permanent can mean the place you’re staying for the foreseeable future or it can mean the place you intend to return to when your financial situation improves.
You can keep your old registration address even if you’ve moved to another county or state, as long as you plan on returning to the old address. If you don’t plan on returning or are staying in your new location for an indefinite period of time, then you should change your registration to your new location.
Even being homeless should not be a barrier to making your voice heard on Election Day. If you’re homeless, you can still register to vote using the location where you usually spend the night, whether it’s on the streets or in a shelter. Voter registration paper forms provide a map where applicants can mark where they usually sleep. The law also allows you to list a mailing address that is different from the place you spend the night.
Keep in mind that once you do register in a new location, it will make you ineligible to vote at your old location.
Housing insecurity is a real concern during this pandemic and economic crisis. The Aspen Institute estimates that more than 700,000 North Carolina renters could face eviction by the end of September. Nationwide, 23 million people are at risk of eviction.
Know your voting rights
Knowing your rights is essential. This also means making sure you know the upcoming deadlines to register to vote or update your registration. In North Carolina, the deadline to register to vote is Friday, Oct. 9, whether you do it online or in-person. If you’re mailing in your registration, it must be postmarked by Oct. 9.
However, even if you miss that deadline, you can still register in person during the early voting period, which runs from Thursday, Oct. 15, to Saturday, Oct. 31. If you register using this “same-day registration” option, you’ll need to attest to your eligibility and provide proof of residence.
The other important date to keep in mind is that election officials must receive your request for an absentee ballot by Tuesday, Oct. 27. However, because of potential mail delivery delays, you should request a ballot as early as possible and mail it back as soon as you can, or drop it off at an official drop location.
Those who have been evicted or those facing eviction, can find more information about registering to vote and residency requirements at the North Carolina State Board of Elections or visit You Can Vote’s Accessible Voting Guide.
All eligible North Carolina voters have the right to make their voices heard in this year’s election, even if they don’t have a place to call home.
People who have lost their jobs and homes during this economic disaster are facing so many challenges — they should not have to worry about whether they can still vote in the Nov. 3 election.
Kate Fellman is the executive director and founder of You Can Vote.