Pamplin Media Group – Decision 2022: Housing stability, access to voting are connected


Catherine McMullen: Oregon’s eviction crisis amplifies barriers to voting

Oregon is touted as the easiest place in America to vote. When asked, “What would a system look like that wanted people to vote?” Stacey Abrams replied, “Oregon.” Voting in Oregon is easy, transparent and even safe during a pandemic. To the right?

Oregon residents who are US citizens can register to vote at age 16 to get their first ballot at age 18; can register through an automatic process after a visit to the DMV; then, for each election, a ballot is mailed to them.

But what if you are experiencing homelessness or housing instability? If you do not have a stable home address, you are considerably less likely to receive a ballot and subsequently vote in elections.

Our state remains a shining example for the rest of the country in terms of accessibility to the vote.

In the words of President Biden, “The right to vote freely. The right to vote fairly. The right to have your vote count” has been a reality for Oregonians for more than two decades.

Despite making it easy to vote is an assumption for most Oregonians, “voting from home” isn’t so easy for underrepresented communities struggling with economic inequality, housing instability and homelessness.

It is more difficult to vote when you live in poverty. The average American moves once every five years. Economic inequalities force families to move more often. Looking at US Census data, geographic mobility is directly correlated with poverty: the more people move, the more likely they are to live below the poverty line.

Low-income families “are forced by urgent crises to choose the safest and most convenient places necessary for their immediate survival rather than taking the time to find neighborhoods with good schools and job opportunities,” according to a recent study by S. DeLuca of Johns Hopkins University. . The more often you move, the harder it is to ensure your ballot will find you, and the harder it becomes to choose leaders and make decisions on your ballot that will empower communities.

Housing instability and homelessness present significant barriers to voting. Yes, you have the right to vote if you are homeless, but it is much more difficult to exercise this right. The eviction crisis and ongoing affordable housing emergency in Oregon only amplifies the barriers to voting for the most vulnerable communities.

We can begin to overcome these barriers to voter registration with concrete actions:

• Create more opportunities for automatic voter registration in addition to DMV such as hunting licenses, social services, and community college admissions.

• Create a program that encourages property managers to include a voter registration opportunity as part of the lease signing process.

• Support culturally sensitive organizations that can connect communities to voter registration and participation.

• Support social and non-profit organizations that provide direct services to poor families and homeless people in voter registration and access to the vote.

• Embrace the voter access improvements that HB 3291 (Election Day Stamped Votes) will bring to Oregon

• Pass HR 1, the For the People Act, nationally so the rest of the country can vote like Oregon does.

Improving the accessibility, accuracy and accountability of voter registration will encourage voter participation in diverse communities, which will increase opportunities for individual and community success and, therefore, better decision-making. more responsive public.

Catherine McMullen is a candidate for Clackamas County Clerk, a position responsible for administering elections in the county.


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