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New Law Lets Homeless Vote

December 24, 1992

CHICAGO (AP) _ A new Illinois law allows homeless people to register to vote by presenting only two forms of identification and a mailing address.

The law, which went into effect Wednesday, was applauded by homeless advocates, who said it’s the first of its kind in the nation.

″It is significant because voting is a way of restoring the citizenship of homeless people,″ said Fred Karnas, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C.

″The people who are homeless consider it a great victory,″ said John Donahue, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

In several other states, court orders or written policies guarantee the right to vote for the homeless. Four states have considered but failed to pass homeless voting laws.

Under the Illinois law, two forms of ID and a mailing address, such as a homeless shelter, are all a homeless person needs to register. The voter must return a prepaid post card affidavit to verify registration 45 days before each election.

″If you are homeless you should still have the right to see who will lead this country,″ said Billy Miles, 29, a homeless man who works as security guard at a shelter, the Pacific Garden Mission.

Local advocates estimate there are 40,000 homeless people in Chicago and 100,000 across the state.

Since 1986, a consent decree has allowed the homeless of Chicago to vote, but Chicago Board of Elections attorney Mickey Levinson says only 350 have registered, partly because many homeless are unaware they can register.

Nationwide, about 2 million homeless people are eligible to vote but aren’t registered, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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