Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) introduced on December 9 the “Our Homes Our Votes Act,” a bill that facilitates voter registration for residents of federally subsidized housing by allowing them to register to vote as they sign their lease. The bill has 18 original cosponsors.
The “Our Homes Our Votes Act” bill adds federally subsidized housing to the “National Voter Registration Act” (better known as the “Motor Voter Law”). The bill:
- Allows eligible and interested tenants in subsidized housing administered by a public housing agency (PHA) to register to vote as they sign their lease document without providing duplicate information.
- Requires PHA’s to transmit these voter registration forms to local election authorities in a timely manner.
- Designates private landlords of subsidized housing (such as those supported by Low Income Housing Tax Credits, the HOME program, the national Housing Trust Fund, or USDA rural housing programs) as “voter registration agents” responsible for distributing voter registration forms and helping tenants fill them out if needed.
Crucially, the bill would make clear that federally subsidized housing providers are expected to conduct voter registration activities at lease up. Census data show large discrepancies in registration and voter turnout between low- and high-income voters and between renters and homeowners. In 2016, 85% of people with incomes over $100,000 were registered to vote and 74% voted compared with 60% of people with incomes below $20,000 who were registered and only 38% who voted. In 2016, 67% of homeowners reported voting, but just 49% of renters reported voting. By creating additional opportunities for voter registration, the bill would help address one of the voting challenges low-income renters face.
“The Our Homes, Our Votes Act is a simple solution to one of the most persistent voter disparities in our democracy,” stated NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in a press release about the bill. “Renters care deeply about voting, but they have more barriers to doing so successfully. One of the most common reasons renters vote at lower rates is that they move more frequently than homeowners, and they have to update their voter registration at each new address. This bill will make it clear to all public housing agencies and other housing providers who use federal housing subsidies that voter registration is an important part of the lease-up process.”
The bill reflects best practices that emerged from NLIHC’s Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020 nonpartisan voter and candidate engagement campaign focused on increasing low-income renter turnout and elevating the importance of housing as an electoral issue. Many housing providers engaged in Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020 began providing voter registration at lease up in order to ensure their residents have a voice in upcoming elections.
Read a press release announcing the bill’s introduction here: https://bit.ly/2J4dbR4