Polling the Homeless Vote


For homeless people, finding the next warm meal is often a higher priority than deciding whether to vote in next week’s presidential election.

In Madison yesterday, about 30 men lined up for the weekly Savory Sunday meal in the basement of the State Capitol. The talk at the tables was mostly about their health or their search for a job. Many of them refused to talk about the election. Several said they were felons and couldn’t vote and therefore didn’t pay attention to politics. But a man who gave his name as Phalen says he cast his ballot at the Dane County clerk’s office last week. He says he’s been homeless on and off for the past 15 years, but that hasn’t stopped him from voting, “At one point I couldn’t vote because I was a felon so once I got off paper and was clear and my probation officer told me I could vote, that’s what I did. It doesn’t matter that I am homeless I guess I like to vote because I look at it as, I shouldn’t say a privilege but as a golden opportunity.”

State law allows voters to list a homeless shelter as their address when registering and voting, if they can document that they are staying there. Leigh Lambright was sitting with two other men at another table. He’s not homeless but he’s retired and living on a fixed income, which makes a soup kitchen meal a good option. He says he’ll vote but not for the president or Gov. Romney, “I think I’m going to vote for Jill Stein just because I always vote Green Party as a protest vote – doesn’t stand a chance in hell right I know that, but I don’t care because I really don’t care for Obama or Romney.”

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Recent polls predict the election in Wisconsin could be as close as it was in 2000 when Al Gore won the state by just over 5,000 votes. The most recent figures estimate the state homeless population, including children, at about 6,000.