Voting Champions for Homeless People

One of the most important things that NEOCH did in 2012 was our work registering homeless people and encouraging tPhoto by Norman Wolfhose individuals to step up to the ballot box to vote.  We have to recognize our main partner in this effort is Cuyahoga County.  The County is one of the only in the country that measures every shelter on how they encourage their residents to vote.  Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services has always made this a priority, and we certainly thank her for making this a priority issue.  We co-hosted a training in April 2012 with all the providers to discuss the proper procedure for registering and then assuring that voters actually show up to vote. 

Our other partner and 2011 Advocate of the Year was Subodh Chandra who is our attorney against the State of Ohio over voting procedure.  He was in court for much of 2012 to protect our agreement with the state regarding the identification procedure for in person voting and how those ballots were going to be counted.  The State and the current Secretary of State put every obstacle in place to reduce participation by the lowest income residents of Ohio. 

NEOCH did a ton of work, and we have to recognize Larry Davis for taking the lead on this effort.  He drove the van to shelters and apartments to encourage registrations and he picked up 220 people to take them over to vote.  I went to the big shelters every Friday to pick up registrations.  NEOCH staff collected 324 registrations from shelters and low income housing complexes.  We had 93% of the people that we registered actually showed up to vote because we sent them a number of reminder postcards/letters.  We found that all but 2 of the 301 people who voted asked for an early ballot.  So most voted by mail or went to the Board of Elections and voted.  An amazing 77% voted on the Saturday, Sunday, or Monday before the Election.  We also transported another 37 on Election Day in November. 

The NEOCH Board selected State Senator Nina Turner as our Advocate of the Year for 2012 for all her work in protecting access to the Ballot Box.  She attended every rally.  She became the face of the Obama lawsuit to allow weekend voting and regularly spoke about that in the media.  With a huge number of homeless voters that weekend, this was very important to our Coalition.  Senator Turner sponsored legislation that would have helped our clients vote, but that was defeated.  She attended a Homeless Congress meeting and the 2011 Candlelight Vigil.  For all these reasons, we selected Nina Turner as our Social Justice Advocate of the Year for 2012.

For the first time, NEOCH recognized a couple of agencies that went out of their way to help homeless people vote.  Nearly every shelter and Permanent Supportive Housing participated in voting activities.  There were two holdouts, but I think we have addressed that.  We recognized the staff at North Point Transitional Shelter which is administered by Mental Health Services, and staff Jeff Bricker.  The shelter registered over 30 new people during the summer, and had 45% of their residents vote during the Presidential Election. Jeff was regularly talking about the importance of voting and rallying the residents to participate.

Shindana Frazier (pictured above accepting the award from Marcia Bufford) from the Salvation Army Railton House Transitional Shelter led the effort among her staff in helping homeless people participate in Democracy.   Ms. Frazier and the staff helped register over 32 people in the summer and then worked to assure that the vans came over to the shelter to transport her residents to the Board of Elections.  She was regularly talking to the guys about voting and reminding them that it is easiest to vote early for homeless people.  Shindana Frazier led the staff effort to get her residents involved in voting by making sure that their registration is up to date. For these reasons we named Jeff Bricker of North Point Transitional and Shindana Frazier of the Salvation Army Railton House as Voting Champions for Homeless People in 2012.  All were presented awards at the Annual Meeting of NEOCH last week. 

 Brian Davis

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