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Homeless most likely to encounter problems with voting

Posted at 5:31 PM, Nov 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-08 10:34:15-05

People rolling in by the dozens to have their say for early voting, but will it count?

You might not know it, but there are certain things you could do to get your ballot thrown out, and it's particularly challenging for the homeless.

"You vote, right?"

That's the question Ken Payton, Voting Coordinator for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless or NEOCH, has been rolling up asking people on the streets.

“We must have registered maybe 14 hundred people; the hard part is getting them to the polls," he said.

Payton has been shuttling groups of homeless people for the non-profit group to the polls for weeks now, and he tells me this might be the only chance they get.

“We talked to a lot of them, they are so proud they voted you know, and this is one step to maybe a new life or some of these people," said Payton.

But getting them to the polls is just half the battle, next is making sure their vote will count.

“These laws that were passed in 2014 require that in order for someone's ballot to count, they had to fill out their absentee form perfectly or their provisional perfectly without mistakes," said Sandhya Gupta, Attorney with the Chandra Law Firm.

Gupta is representing NEOCH in their recent lawsuit against the state for making certain mistakes on things like your address and birth date on your ballot probable cause to throw it out.

“Usually it might be that somebody wrote in something like the current date instead of their date of birth, or maybe they left off a ZIP code... thousands of people across the state of Ohio were disenfranchised because of these minor errors," she said.

It's particularly problematic for the homeless.

“We're talking about a population that has high rates of illiteracy, so they may have more difficulty filling out forms they may be more prone to making a mistake, it's also a population that has more mental health issues,” Gupta explains.

The judge in the case ruled mistakes on a voters address and birthdate are no longer reasons to cancel the vote, but Gupta tells me the fight isn't over.

“We expect that there could still be thousands of people who have their ballots thrown out in Ohio because of this law."

Knowing all of that, second-time voter, Rafael Hernandez told me he made sure to take his time.

“I printed my name as best as I can, my signatures even neat... no confusion."

NEOCH and their lawyers tell me they plan to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take their case. Right now, cursive writing, along with mistakes on your driver’s license, and social security number are still grounds for your ballot to be thrown out. So if you're voting tomorrow, you're going to want to pay extra close attention to those areas.