Making sure voters have the information they need
about candidates and housing affordability issues.
Educating Clients and Elected Officials
There can be as many as three components to the education piece of your plan.
1. Educate Low Income Renters on Voting and Their Rights as Voters
Clients should be informed of where their polling place is, what documentation they will need to have with them in order to vote, and their rights if election officials attempt to prevent them from voting. Arranging for local election officials to demonstrate how voting machines work can be helpful in easing fears about voting for the first time.
The National Coalition for the Homeless’ “You Don’t Need A Home to Vote” Voting Rights Campaign seeks to protect and promote the right of homeless people to vote. It offers materials on all aspects of a voter engagement campaign, including specific, state-by-state information on the legal issues affecting the rights of people experiencing homelessness to vote. Find the campaign at www.nationalhomeless.org/campaigns/voting
Many states have new requirements for showing identification during the registration process or at the voting booth. The League of Women Voters has updated information about the rules in each state at www.Vote411.org.
2. Educate Your Network and Clients on the Issues
Nonprofits can best assist low income voters in becoming familiar with the issues by providing opportunities for people to hear the direct views of candidates. Distribution of candidate questionnaires, hosting debate watch parties, or holding candidate forums are examples of such opportunities. It can often be very powerful when candidates are asked about housing issues or homelessness in public forums or town hall meetings. Please contact NLIHC if you would like help putting together a candidate questionnaire that includes federal policy. This is an activity in which you must be especially vigilant about ensuring that your agency follows IRS requirements. Please refer to the guide Nonprofits, Voting & Elections before you send questionnaires to your candidates or invite candidates to speak to clients.
3. Educate Candidates
Asking candidates to fill out a questionnaire or inviting them to your agency can be a way to learn more about them while making them aware of your organization and the issues that are important to renters. You may also want to report the number of new voters your organization has been able to register. Candidates also learn what issues are important to voters by reading the letters to the editor page of the newspaper. Consider having clients write letters about issues that are important to them; letters can often be published as a response to a story in which candidates have discussed poverty issues.