Registering the Homeless to Vote

Presidential candidates Sen. John Kerry and George W. Bush are eagerly stumping for votes from suburban "soccer moms," "NASCAR dads" and undecided voters in swing states.

But volunteers are also targeting some of the nation's most overlooked voters. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports on efforts to get out the vote in the most unlikely of places — the grimy streets of skid row in downtown Los Angeles.

LA Community Action Network volunteer Ann Brooks registers Preston Banner to vote.

LA Community Action Network volunteer Ann Brooks registers Preston Banner, a resident of Los Angeles' skid row, to vote in November. Mandalit del Barco, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mandalit del Barco, NPR

Those streets are home to thousands of men, women and children — at night, the sidewalks are lined with makeshift tents made from tarps and cardboard. There are few facilities, and the shelters are filled to the bursting point.

Registration volunteer and activist Bilal Ali, a former Black Panther, says most people have the wrong idea about the homeless. "There are a tremendous number of people down here who are registered to vote already, and who will vote," he says. "That debunks the whole myth of people saying (the homeless) are apathetic, it's not going to happen, these people are drug addicts, they don't care. So we're proving them wrong."

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