Chronically homeless in Baton Rouge often miss out on right to vote

Updated: Nov. 1, 2020 at 8:25 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On Election Day Tuesday, there will be a population that has a much tougher time exercising one of the basic rights: voting.

Chronically homeless face a number of barriers that prevent them from voting. Many do not have a permanent address they can use to register, even more do not have an ID. Even for those who are registered and have an ID, the lack of transportation limits their ability to get to the polls.

“Also, having to engage with the system that’s not really working for them in their lives at that moment is pretty challenging,” said Ashley Shelton, the Executive Director of The Power Coalition.

The Power Coalition has been working to overcome those barriers, mainly working with people to obtain the necessary forms of identification and address to register.

“The first entry point is you’ve got to engage. You’ve got to say that you are a voter and you are working to try and change what’s happening to them,” she said.

Michael Acaldo, President and CEO of St. Vincent De Paul, said he worries some are falling through the cracks though.

“In the past years we’ve seen a lot more during bigger presidential years wanting to vote, people coming out and helping people get registered,” Acaldo said. “This year not so much so and so for individuals that are chronically homeless they really do face an uphill battle.”

His organization works to ensure everyone that comes through its doors knows what resources are available to help them vote, all the while encouraging them to do so.

“For us it’s getting the message out which we’ve done for those who are currently shelter residents to encourage them to vote,” he said.

One of those resources, the free bus fares CATS is providing right now to riders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Acaldo and Shelton hope people will utilize that service to help overcome at least one of those barriers and allow them to vote.

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