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Has COVID-19 Created an Unexpected Move for You? Here’s How to Make Sure You Can Still Vote.

By Tanya Svoboda
September 2020

Registering to vote in the United States requires an address and an identification number. It’s typically a pretty straightforward process. And while President Trump’s recent executive order and the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) appear to have staved off the threat of eviction and foreclosure through the end of the year, for some, the inability to meet the order’s requirements for relief may still result in a change of address just as it’s time to head to the polls.

Whether your move is planned or unexpected, making sure you’re registered to vote at your new address is essential if you plan to vote in person. However, COVID-19 has increased the number of expected mail-in ballots, and if you plan to vote by mail this election, a last-minute move will likely complicate the process even further.

Stable Housing Affects Voting Behavior

The increased challenges of voting after a move or eviction, whether in person or by mail, have been compounded by COVID-19. These challenges are highlighting the pre-existing disparity in voter participation between low and high-income residents. Data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows 74% of people with incomes over $100,000 voted in the 2016 national election, in comparison to only 38% of those with incomes below $20,000. Similarly, 67% of homeowners voted while only 49% of renters voted.

“Dealing with an immediate crisis puts everything on the backburner,” Joey Lindstrom, director of field organizing with NLIHC says. “I think voting is really important to renters. I think voting is really important to low-income people. But when the primary issue of your day is how are you going to feed your kids or how are you going to find a place to sleep at night, the policy concerns of a federal election fade to the background, for very understandable reasons.”

The voice of renters and low-income residents during an election is imperative to increased access to affordable housing. Here’s how you can register to vote in person or by mail if you’ve had a recent change of address.

Registering to Vote After a Move

Each state has its own rules about residency and voting. Some states will allow you to register to vote as soon as you move. Other states will require you to live in that state for a certain number of days before registering to vote in an upcoming election. However, no matter where you live, a state can’t require you to live there for more than 30 days prior to registering.

  • States with a voter registration deadline 28-30 days before an election: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
  • States with a voter registration deadline 20-27 days before an election: Delaware, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia.
  • States with a voter registration deadline 1-15 days before an election: Alabama, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota.
  • States with Election Day registration or same-day registration during early voting: California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
  • State with no voter registration: North Dakota

Even if you’re moving to a new address within the same state, you’ll still need to update your voter registration. Depending on which state you live in, you can make changes to your voter registration online, through the mail, by phone, or in person. You can enter in your state at Vote.gov to find out your state’s process.

Due to COVID-19 related closings and restrictions, you should call ahead to make sure the office you plan to visit is still operating with normal hours. The article How the COVID-19 Housing Crisis Could Affect Voter Participation notes, “Continued social distancing may mean the office you usually visit to update your voter information is closed.” You can register to vote in person at:

  • Your local elections office.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • State agencies that provide public assistance.
  • A third-party voter registration organization.
Registering to Vote By Mail After a Move

You can still vote by mail even if you’ve been evicted; it will just require some extra work. While the vote-by-mail process varies by state, in response to the pandemic, many states have tweaked their mail-in voting procedures to make the process easier. For the most part, the changes made by states allow anyone to receive an absentee ballot by claiming fear of COVID-19 as a valid reason. However, there are still six states where COVID-19 is not an acceptable reason to request an absentee ballot.

To request an absentee ballot you can visit Can I Vote, select your state from the dropdown menu, and follow the directions listed for your state. To find out your state’s absentee ballot deadlines you can visit the U.S. Vote Foundation’s website and select your location from the dropdown menu.

For evicted residents, there are complicated logistics involved in mail-in voting and Brian Miller, executive director of Nonprofit VOTE, is concerned those complications will deter evicted residents from voting altogether. He explains in the article An Eviction Wave Could Wreak Havoc on Voting by Mail, “In 41 states, there’s a two-step process to get an absentee ballot: Residents first request their ballot, then wait to receive it. Evictions are likely to pose the most voting problems in these states,” He continues, “Residents may request the ballot to their current address, but then be gone from the address by the time it arrives.”

For American’s who are moving in the coming months, whether it’s planned or unexpected, there are likely to be complications to the voting process for both in-person and mail-in voters. Understanding your state’s registration deadlines and requirements ahead of time may give you the leg up you need should you find yourself making a last-minute move during this election season.


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