Helping the homeless vote in the Victorian State Election

Victorians experiencing homelessness can vote, but, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. 

With 24,800 Victorians experiencing homelessness on any given night, there’s a risk that many people within this already marginalised group will not able to make their voices heard on polling day.  

But, as the 2018 Victorian State election draws near, efforts are underway to ensure that people without fixed addresses are enrolled and aware of their rights. 

Nigel, who’s experienced homelessness himself, is a Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) Democracy Ambassador — a group of people helping marginalised communities understand the importance of voting and how to be enrolled.  

“It a basic human right,” Nigel says

“It allows people to have their voice heard and allows for them to be able to advocate for their community.”

Nigel, VEC Democracy Ambassador and member of CHP’s Peer Support Education Program

Every Australian citizen over the age of 18 is entitled to vote regardless of their housing situation. In Victoria, the VEC provides No fixed address forms for people who are itinerant or homeless.  

The forms also allow people who are unable to make it to a polling booth to avoid being hit with fines (that they usually cannot afford to pay). There are also Silent elector forms for those at risk of family violence who wish to remain anonymous. 

The key challenge, of course, is getting the message out.  Nigel experienced periods of homelessness over a couple of decades and stresses the importance of education and outreach. He says there were plenty of elections that he missed while being homeless or at risk of homelessness.

With just over 3 weeks until polling day, campaigning has well and truly begun for the November 24 State election. But despite the fact that in 2016-17, 109,000 Victorians sought assistance from homelessness services, and that Victoria’s social housing waiting list hit nearly 38,000 this year, housing and homelessness aren’t leading issues for any of the major parties.  

As well as ensuring their enfranchisement, making sure that people experiencing homelessness can vote also allows them to make their voices — and issues —  are heard by decision makers. 

Specialist Homelessness Services and other organisations who work with people experiencing homelessness are encouraged to spread the word before enrollment closes on November 6. 

No-fixed-address forms and other information can be found on the VEC’s Homeless not Voteless page