We wrapped up another historic election, and homeless and subsidized housing residents in Cleveland participated. In 2008, there were 1,111,286 voters registered in Cuyahoga County and 60.52% of the voters cast a ballot. This year there were only 927,996 registered voters and 66.5% of the voters cast a ballot in the county. This is a huge victory in the face of all the obstacles put in place that more people turned out in Cuyahoga County than did in 2008.
NEOCH did a ton of work to assure that homeless people participate in democracy. The shelters all helped and worked to get everyone of their residents to register and then get to the polls. Cuyahoga County is one of the few areas in the whole country that requires publicly funded shelter to register their folks and then help them to vote. It only make sense in that the reason the person is at their front door is because they are changing their residence. Cuyahoga County should be a model of homeless participation for every city in the United States. Thanks to all the staff who helped fill out the registration forms and then rallied people to get a ride to the polls. We started back in July in working with the shelters and were able to register 660 people with some of the low income housing programs. Then back in October, we began transporting people to the polls to vote. Larry Davis, a Mature Services member and Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants President, spent a great deal of time moving people to the Board of Elections to vote. It is much easier for homeless people to vote early because they do not have to show identification and also the board staff are better acquainted with the voting procedures. We continued to monitor our lawsuit against the Secretary of State over provisional ballots.
Then yesterday on Election Day, we had 12 volunteer drivers come in and transport homeless people to vote. These men and women (and two kids) travelled all across the county taking people back to their polling place to vote. This is the most rewarding part of the job here. We were able to see tears of joy from a number of our voters who cast their ballot for the first time. William took a young woman who had found housing over the last 30 days after being homeless for over a year. She was so worried because she wore a veil as a devout Muslim that they would not accept her identification or would make her take off her veil. The poll workers were so gracious and considerate, and this recently unhoused woman was so proud that she started crying in the car back to her apartment after she voted. We took another woman who became homeless in the last 30 days over to vote. She was forced to vote by a provisional ballot, because she had lost her residence. This was her first experience with voting in her life. She was told her ballot would take 10 days to count, she was still choked up that she was allowed to vote a provisional ballot in America even though she had no where to live on November 6.
We will have a more complete look at the people who we registered and we will be able to provide more details about our efforts in the next 30 days. We will also update everyone on our provisional ballots, and the fantastic job done this time by most of the poll workers. We did not have any problems at the polling places as we had in 2008. We had tremendous support from most of the shelter staff who helped motivate voters. We drove more people this year when compared to 2008. We will also be able to show the percentage of homeless people who registered this summer and how many voted by the first of the year.
More to come....
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