On December 9, 2020, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) and Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) introduced the Our Homes Our Votes Act, a bill that facilitates voter registration for residents of federally subsidized housing by allowing them to register to vote as they sign their lease. The bill has 18 original cosponsors.
The provisions of the Our Homes Our Votes Act mirror the popular National Voter Registration Act of 1993 or “Motor Voter Law,” which allows eligible voters to register to vote directly at the DMV as they obtain or renew their drivers’ license. This bill extends the concept to tenants in subsidized housing administered by a public housing authority who, like customers at the DMV, have already had their identity and residence vetted by public authorities.
Low-income voter turnout regularly lags higher-income turnout by 20 percentage points, though low-income voters made gains in the last election.
The Our Homes Our Votes Act:
- Allows eligible and interested tenants in subsidized housing administered by a Public Housing Agency (PHA) to register to vote as they sign their lease document without providing duplicate information;
- Requires PHA’s to transmit these voter registration forms to local election authorities in a timely manner;
- Designates private landlords of subsidized housing as “voter registration agents” responsible for distributing voter registration forms and helping tenants fill them out if needed.
“When we make it easier for eligible voters to register and vote, more people are able to make their voices heard and claim their power in our democracy,” Congresswoman Scanlon said. “This bill builds upon the foundation established by the National Voter Registration Act by expanding voter registration opportunities. If you can register to vote while updating your driver’s license, why can’t you when signing a lease at a Public Housing Agency? It’s just that simple.”
“The best way to achieve our country’s promise of ‘one person one vote’ is to make it easier for everyone to vote. That’s why I’m introducing the Our Homes Our Votes Act. This bill will facilitate voter registration for residents of federally subsidized housing. Tenants already have their identity and residence verified when they sign their lease, so if they are eligible to vote they should be able to do so easily,” said Congressman García. “People fought and died for the right to vote in our country, but residents of working-class districts like mine still face too many barriers to vote. I believe we should help low-income communities vote with the same numbers as higher-income communities — then we will have policies that help everyone.”
“The Our Homes, Our Votes Act is a simple solution to one of the most persistent voter disparities in our democracy,” said Diane Yentel, president & CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Renters care deeply about voting, but they have more barriers to doing so successfully. One of the most common reasons renters vote at lower rates is that they move more frequently than homeowners, and they have to update their voter registration at each new address. This bill will make it clear to all public housing agencies and other housing providers who use federal housing subsidies that voter registration is an important part of the lease-up process. We applaud Representatives Chuy García and Mary Gay Scanlon for their leadership on this innovative proposal. Our democracy is strongest when it includes the most voices; the Our Homes, Our Votes Act will boost the participation of low-income renters in a meaningful and impactful way.”