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Student Voices: Make Loaves and Fishes a Voting Center

Frank Ingram, future voter I met while at Loaves and Fishes.

Jakob Franco
Co-editor | The Pacific Times

Some look upon the homeless community in Sacramento with empathy and others with outright disdain. No matter where you stand on the homeless, I hope we can all agree homeless people should hold all the same rights as an average citizen. In this piece I would like to examine an issue often overlooked when it comes to the homeless: their ability to vote.

Homeless people in California are entitled to vote in California as long as they are over the age of 18 and free from parole for any criminal infractions. The California appellate court case Collier v. Menzel secured the right of people to list a park or cross-street as their place of residence when registering to vote. However, the homeless still face massive obstacles to voting compared to other citizens.

Central to these obstacles is the lack of resources to both register and eventually cast their votes. The Voter Choice which Sacramento instituted beginning with the June primary in 2018 created a number of designating voting centers. Voters could both register and cast their votes at these centers which the county hoped would help increase voter turnout.

There is a large number of homeless people that live outside the Sacramento Loaves and Fishes center and the site itself serves hundreds of individuals each day. As such, it would serve as a prime location to make a voting center targeting the homeless vote.

However, the County Registrar’s Office decided not to make Loaves and Fishes a voting center for both the June primary and November midterm elections despite the request of homeless advocates. Running a voting center at the area would mean increased costs and possibly making an exception to the existing voting center requirements, but I feel the benefits of such a center would be well worth these downsides. Where should our county’s resources go if not to support a group highly likely to experience environmental disenfranchisement?

Currently the nearest voting center is over a mile away from the facility which is a substantial impediment for the homeless who are much more likely to lack means of transportation or have some sort of physical disability keeping them from easily going that far.

This November I went to Loaves and Fishes myself and registered voters as well as provided directions to the nearest voting center. I was astonished at the political passion of many of the people I met that day and their excitement about making their voices heard. While we may dehumanize these individuals  in our discussion of the, “homeless problem,” they truly have similar concerns to any other average voter. I registered over a dozen people while I was at the facility and the resources of a voting center would certainly increase that by a wide margin.

Protecting our voting rights is crucial protecting our democracy and that means looking out for the most vulnerable members of our society. Contact the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and Registrar’s Office if you feel Loaves and Fishes should be made an official voting center in future elections.

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