Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Where Can I Get Help With Voting?

Call NEOCH at (216) 432-0540. We can: 

  • Come to your apartment building/shelter/etc. and set up a voter registration table.
  • Provide you with blank voter registration forms.
  • Verify your registration status and/or change your registration address.
  • Help you sign up to vote-by-mail. 
  • Give trainings on voter registration and voting.
  • Provide lists of registered voters in your building/shelter/etc. using the Cuyahoga County voter database.
  • Answer ANY questions you have about voter registration and/or voting! 

Other resources: 

  • Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
    Go to the Board of Elections: 2925 Euclid Ave.
    Call: (216) 433-VOTE(8683)
    Go to their website: http://boe.cuyahogacounty.us/
  • Ohio Secretary of State Husted
    Go to the voting section of his website: www.MyOhioVote.com 
  • www.Vote411.org - Look up your polling place and get a personalized Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters
  • www.JudicialVotesCount.org - Learn about Ohio's courts and read profiles of candidates running for judge
  • Call Election Protection, a nonpartisan coalition that provides a toll-free hotline for voting information or to report problems
    English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)
    Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682)
    Asian & Pacific Island languages: 1-888-API-VOTE (1-888-274-8683) 

2. Do homeless people have any special registration requirements?

Homeless people do have a right to vote, and can use the address of the shelter or where they receive mail to register. They will have to vote in the precinct closest to where they receive mail. So if the individual registers and receives mail at the shelter, they need to vote at the precinct near the shelter.

To vote on election day, there is an ID requirement. Ohio accepts the following documents for voter ID purposes: Driver's license or state ID card with voter's name and photo issued by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which cannot be expired, but may have an old address; U.S. Military ID with voter's name and photo; A government ID with voter's name, current address, and photo; An original or copy of one of the following documents that shows the voter'™s name and current address: Utility bill, including cell phone bill, bank statement, pay stub, government check or "other government document" (see #8). There may be confusion at the polls if a voter's state ID address does not match their registration address - however, this should not prevent someone from voting. A state ID cannot be expired, but the address does NOT have to be current or match the registration address. 

Because it may be difficult for homeless voters to access ID with an address, we encourage homeless voters to vote early at the Board of Elections or by mail. There is no ID requirement for using either of these options, and only the last 4 digits of the Social Security Number are required. 

In Cuyahoga County, you may now check to make sure that you are registered to vote. The County Board of Elections website is http://boe.cuyahogacounty.us., and then click on registration information to verify that you are in fact registered. You can also view what address the Board has you on file and even what precinct you are required to go to in order to vote.

3. What were the main changes that took place between the 2012 and 2016 elections?

  • There was a loss of Golden Week, the period in which voters can register and vote at the same time, but it has been restored. Golden Week will take place October 3rd-11th, 2016.
  • There has been a purge of voters from Ohio's registration records who have not voted since 2008. Even if you were previously registered to vote, if the last election you voted in was 2008 you are no longer registered and need to register again to vote in 2016.

4. What are the main issues that I need to be aware of for voter registration activities?

The rules have not changed much for voter registration since 2006. You need to get the registrations over to the Board within ten days. At this point, the shelters and service providers should encourage every homeless person to register upon entry. If you request an absentee ballot at the same as you register to vote, you need to staple the two forms together with the registration on top. It is better to wait until you get your card back and then ask for an absentee ballot on the website. There are more issues if you are paying someone to collect registrations as their only function including disclosures on the registration form. 

5. Does the federal Help America Vote law conflict with state law, which has always allowed homeless people to register a park bench?

No, the state law has not changed. A person is free to register a park bench if they choose, but their mail will come back and they will be declared inactive. It is not a big deal if your registration is “inactive.”  You can still vote and will not get kicked off the list. The Board could manually input those registration forms with odd locations, but it makes it difficult to stay on the voting roles. It is likely that the individual will have to vote with a provisional ballot when they show up to vote. Many homeless people use addresses of where they lived previously (i.e. family or friends’ homes) where they might still get mail.

The board does accept three addresses for homeless people to use in Cleveland. These are the West Side Catholic drop in center (3135 Lorain Ave. 44113), The Cosgrove Center drop in center (1736 Superior Ave. 44114), and the men’s shelter 2100 Lakeside Shelter (2100 Lakeside Ave. 44114). Those people who change addresses or move to a different shelter and are registered (inactive or active) could go to the Board of Elections main office and vote. At any time that they make contact with the Board by voting or changing their registration, they switch to active.

6. Is it possible for homeless people to vote at the Board of Elections main office on Election Day no matter where they are registered in Cuyahoga County? 

No. Ohio operates on a precinct based voting system so you must vote in the precinct in which you are registered. If you show up at the wrong precinct they will direct you to the correct precinct to vote, and will not offer or allow you to vote on a provisional ballot. 

You now have the opportunity to vote by mail by completing an absentee ballot request form. Vote by Mail starts 35 days before the Election Day. There is a five business day window, Oct. 3rd - 7th, in which you can go to the Board of Elections, register to vote, request an absentee ballot and complete the ballot on the same day. This must be done at the Board of Elections main location (2925 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland). You can vote by absentee ballot at the main office up until the Friday before Election Day.

You can vote at the main Board office if you moved since you registered, but did not notify the Board of Elections of the move 30 days before the election.  You can also deliver an absentee ballot to the main office of the Board of Elections until close of the polls at the office. Ballots must make it to the Board by Election Day to be counted in the Mail. You can request an absentee ballot by Noon on the Saturday before Election Day (Nov. 5).  There are special rules for postmarking ballots if you are outside the United States on Election Day.

You are given a provisional ballot now if you think that you are in the correct precinct, but the voting officials cannot find your name in the book as a registered voter.  The provisional ballots are then investigated to see if the person was in fact a legal voter.  If the person votes in the wrong precinct on a provisional ballot their entire ballot is voided unless the poll worker directed the individual to the wrong precinct or they made a mistake on the ballot (this is called the NEOCH exception based on our lawsuit).  In some cases, you can return to the Board of Elections and prove your identity or your address is correct within 5 days of the election after casting a provisional ballot. They should give a 1-800 number to verify that your provisional ballot was counted.  There is no County wide provisional ballot available. If your client has any issue with provisional ballots feel free to contact NEOCH or send them to NEOCH.

7. What is the procedure for getting a polling location at a shelter?

In Cuyahoga County a precinct can have no more than 1,400 registered voters.  If there are more than 1,400 then the precinct is split, and all the registered voters are notified of the new polling place. In a time of budget cuts and shrinking populations, it is unlikely they will be expanding the number of polling locations. It is more likely that we will be cutting the number of sites in the future. Shelters are not always interested in having others come to their facility who are not homeless. While it is possible, it is probably not practical.

8. Can felons vote?

Yes, only those currently incarcerated for a felony are barred from voting in Ohio. Any registered individual that you come in contact with is eligible to vote. Those awaiting trial on a felony are also allowed to vote. 

9. How does the ID requirement impact homeless people who show up at the polls on Election Day?

Again, NEOCH recommends early voting or vote by mail as better options for homeless people for voting in Ohio.  All of the items that will pass as identification involve a place that the individual lives (utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document showing your name and current address), or government issued current ID showing your current or former address. Homeless people have a hard time keeping identification current and not losing their ID, so this is a hardship.

The definition of “other government document” includes, but is not limited to: a document that is issued by a government office and that bears the name and current address of the voter presenting it for identification. The name and address of the voter that appears on the government document must conform to the voter's name and address in the record of the board of elections, including the poll list or signature poll book and must be current as defined in this directive. "Government office" includes any local (including county, city, township, and village governments), state, or federal (United States) government office, branch, agency, department, division, or other similar component, including a board, commission, public college or university or public community college, whether or not in Ohio. By way of example, this may include, but is not limited to, letters; bills for taxes and other similar obligations; hunting, fishing and marine equipment operator's licenses; license renewal notices and other notices; filing receipts; court papers; grade reports; or transcripts.

The Board of Elections mail does not count as identification and is specifically barred from being ID in the law. 

Another potential problem is that some poll workers may be confused if a person’s address on their identification does not match their address in the poll book. No matter what happens, the individual who shows up to vote should not leave without having voted, at least with a provisional ballot. 

The absentee ballot/vote by mail does not require an ID.  We are encouraging every shelter to request absentee ballots for their clients or go to the polls between October 3 and 11 (Golden Week 2016). We suggest beginning in July 2016, every client in the shelters request an absentee ballot.  You just need to submit your state ID number or the last four digits of your social security number with the absentee ballot request.  If the individual is registering for the first time or changing their address, then they should attach the absentee ballot to the registration so that they do not get separated during the process.  

Overall: 
Emergency Shelters and Drop In Centers should encourage people to change their address with the Board of Elections when entering the shelters. Most people have places that they can receive mail, but otherwise they might consider using either Cosgrove or West Side Catholic as a central place to register and receive their mail.

Transitional shelters should also encourage people to update their address with the Board of Elections. Since there are longer stays in the transitional shelters they should register using the transitional shelter’s address. All homeless people should be encouraged to vote absentee ballot.

10.  What should we watch out for?

There will most likely be more changes before this is all finalized. NEOCH and OHS will contact you with additional information when there are changes. We will have a special section on our website dedicated to voting (/homeless-voting/) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (www.nationalhomeless.org) has a section on voting. The National Coalition is doing a homeless voting week in late August or early September. There will be more information on this in the near future.

11.  Other Information:

  • Every shelter needs to register every single person that comes in the door.  It is a very easy process, and the staff can send in the registration forms.  There is a cover sheet that needs to go with the completed forms.  They must be delivered to the Board of Elections within 5 days of the individual signing the form. Call NEOCH for help with delivery to the Board of Elections.  You can seal the registrations so that there is no disclosure on your clients.  There is a form to fill out for the front to show the number of registration forms that you are submitting.  We will not collect information on your clients that connect them to your facility.  We are working with CTO and the AIDS Task Force on a plan to get low income people registered and to the polls to vote in the fall.  Remember, that a person registering to vote is a public record and candidates, advocates and others can request copies of every registration in the county.  If you do not want people to use your address, you need to come up with some other address.
  • Essential information that is left off the registration card will generate a letter from the board asking for clarification. Signature is the most important information that has to be in the box. Disabled people can have someone else fill out the form and just sign in the box at the bottom. 
  • Be aware that when you request an absentee ballot, you will receive a great deal of mail from candidates seeking your vote. 
  • Shelters can register people and provide them with an absentee ballot at the same time.  The absentee ballot forms are free to be copied by the agency.   The absentee ballot needs to be sent attached to the registration or sent three weeks later to give the registration time to be processed.
  • Remember, that if a person uses their mailing address of a friend or family member, they will have to either change their address when they get housing or vote in the Precinct where they receive mail.  This is why it might be easier to also complete an absentee ballot request, which allows the person 35 days to get back to the place that they get mail to vote. 
  • Victims fleeing a domestic violence situation can continue to use their home address to vote, but should fill out a vote by mail application.  This application can be sent to a different address such as their lawyer’s address, a family member or friend or a place that they can safely receive mail.
  • Y-Haven has always encouraged their clients work at the polls and so therefore vote. This may be an opportunity for other transitional shelters to also get their clients to work for the Board of Elections on Election Day. You can apply for a position on the Board of Election’s website.
  • Those that become homeless after the registration deadline but before the day of voting will not have time to change their voter registration to reflect the fact that they are homeless.  These individuals will have to vote at the Board of Elections or return to the precinct of their previous residence. 
  • Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. for voting.  Absentee ballots can be dropped off before at the main office of the Board of Elections up until Election Day.

 Questions or if you need any assistance call Brian or Ken at 216/432-0540 at NEOCH.

 Return to Homeless Voting section of NEOCH's website