Enabling Qualified Homeless Individuals to Vote -- Sample Proof of Residence Letter

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Proof of Residence for Homeless Persons to Register to Vote

Being homeless should not prevent any qualified Wisconsin resident from voting.  This memorandum is designed to help qualified homeless persons register to vote while protecting the integrity of elections. 

In addition to being a United States citizen aged 18 or older, one of the key requirements for voting is residing at a place in Wisconsin for at least 10 days by Election Day.  This can be a challenge for a homeless person, but Wisconsin law does not require a voter’s residence to be a home or an apartment with a traditional street address.

Wisconsin law defines your voting residence as the place where you live, without any present intent to move, and where you intend to return when you are away.  For that reason, homeless persons may use a fixed location in Wisconsin as their residence if it is an identifiable location which could conceivably serve as a temporary residence.  For example, this location may be a homeless shelter, a park bench, or other location where a homeless person spends time.

“Intent to return when away” also means that a homeless person may continue to use a previously established residence as a voting address, even if he or she no longer physically lives there, if the person intends to return there.  This would allow a voter who has periodically stayed with friends or family to continue using that address for voting purposes.

A homeless person may claim a shelter for the homeless as his or her residence for voting purposes, even if the shelter has rules saying it cannot be used as a residence address.  “Residence” for voting purposes is different than other types of residence.

To register to vote, you must present a document that proves where you live for voting purposes.  This “proof of residence” document may include a letter from a shelter for the homeless or from a private or public social service organization that provides services to homeless persons.  The letter identifies the person and describes where the person lives for voting purposes.  This letter should be on the organization’s letterhead and signed by a person affiliated with the organization.  A sample letter is attached.

Local election officials or persons helping qualified homeless persons to vote may contact the Wisconsin Elections Commission staff at 608-266-8005 or at elections@wi.gov with questions.