We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected
Graphic of person's hand placing a ballot in a blue ballot box decorated with LA City Hall and two people. One of the people is pushing a shopping cart.
(Dan Carino
FAQ: How To Vote In LA If You're Unhoused
Not sure if you can vote by mail without an address? Or how to register without identification? Here's what to know about voting when you're experiencing homelessness.
We need to hear from you.
Today during our spring member drive, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. The local news you read here every day is crafted for you, but right now, we need your help to keep it going. In these uncertain times, your support is even more important. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership. Thank you.

There are state laws and judicial rulings that support the right of a person who is experiencing homelessness to register to vote. But that doesn't mean the process is easy to figure out.

If you're unhoused and want to vote, this FAQ is intended to help address some of the most common concerns, such as:

  • no access to a mailing address/way to get mail
  • loss of identification documents required to register
  • no outreach on dates and subjects of elections
  • confusion about polling places

If you’re one of those people, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
You can start with our quick illustrated overview below. You can also download a flyer version of this FAQ that you can share. Email us at engagement@scpr.org if you would like LAist to ship or drop off copies.

Keep reading for more in-depth answers. All of this is specifically for people who are experiencing homelessness. If you don’t find your question or answer below, head to our main voter FAQ.

How do I register to vote without a permanent address?

New Voter Game Plan For The November 2022 Elections Coming Soon! Check Back In Early October. Have a question in the meantime? Ask it now, we're here to help.

You don’t have to have a permanent address in order to register to vote.

When you register, you can list the nearest cross streets or use similar location details to describe the place where you are living. After that, you can vote at any polling station in Los Angeles County.

The deadline to register online to vote is May 23. You can also register to vote in-person all the way through Election Day. It's called same-day voter registration.

Page 1 of Voter Registration in LA County For People Experiencing Homelessness
Contributed to DocumentCloud by KPCC Documents (KPCCDocuments (Individual)) • View document or read text

Can I register to vote without identification?

Yes, you can. If you do not have a government-issued identification card, you can register with the last four digits of your social security number.

If you don’t know your social security number or you don’t have one, you can still register. Leave the box asking for your identification information blank, and your county elections official will assign a number to you that will be used to identify you as a voter.

A screenshot of the California Secretary of State website asking registrants to provide identification. The text reads: "New voters may have to show a form of identification or proof of residency the first time they vote, if a driver license or SSN was not provided when registering." Below that is a prompt: "California driver license or California identification card number," followed by empty field. Underneath is a checkbox that reads: "I do not have a California driver license or California identification card."
The next field prompts: "Social security number (last 4 numbers) and an empty field. Underneath is a checkbox that reads: "I do not have a social security number."
Screenshot from the new voter registration page of the California Secretary of State website.

If I didn’t register to vote before going to a polling station, can I still vote?

Yes, California offers same-day voter registration. That means you can go to any polling station and register and vote at the same time.

However, if you did not register to vote in advance, you will vote with a provisional ballot and your ballot will only be counted once your voter registration has been verified.

Provisional ballots have been used in California since 1984. Provisional ballots are placed in pink envelopes, secured for processing and counted after elections officials confirm the validity of the voter registration and make sure two votes weren’t cast. According to the California Secretary of State, on average, 85% to 90% of provisional ballots were valid and counted in prior elections.

If you don’t have a government-issued identification card and don’t know your social security number or don’t have one, it may take longer to verify your ballot.

The polls open on May 28 in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Can I vote by mail without an address?

All California voters with a mailing address are sent a mail-in ballot. If you do not list a mailing address, you will not receive a mail-in ballot and will have to vote in person at a polling station.

However, if there is a place where you can reliably receive mail, such as a PO Box or a friend's house, you can list that place as your mailing address. The voter registration form allows you to list a home address and indicate that you have a separate mailing address. (Your home address should reflect where you are living. You could list the nearest cross streets or give other descriptions.)

You can put any place that has agreed to receive your mail in the mailing address box.

A screenshot from the California Secretary of State website new voter registration page. This section of the registration form asks for your home and mailing address information. The first section, "Home Address," allows you to select a button that either says "I have a street address" or "I do not have a street address." There are several fields below that, asking for street address, apartment or unit number, city, state, zip, and county. 
Underneath that is a checked box that reads: "My mailing address is different from my home address." When checked, that brings up a new set of fields underneath to fill out your mailing address, asking for the same information (street address, city, state, zip) as above.
Screenshot from the California Secretary of State website's new voter registration page.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is May 31.

You can return your mail-in ballot several ways:

  • Mail it in, no postage required. Just make sure it's postmarked on or by June 7, 2022 and arrives within 7 days of the election. 
  • Turn it in at a vote center or polling place in your county on or by 8 p.m. on June 7, 2022.
  • Drop it in an official drop box in your county by 8 p.m. on June 7, 2022. Avoid fake drop boxes. Here is what official drop boxes in L.A. County and Orange County look like. 
  • Designate another person to drop it off for you — as long as that person doesn't get paid to pick up ballots. There's a space on your ballot envelope to write the name of the person you've chosen to turn in your vote.

Be sure to sign your ballot with the signature that matches what the registrar has on file (probably your ID signature). Again, no worries about stamps! Postage is free for all mail-in ballots in the state of California.

How do I find the nearest polling station to vote in-person?

If you are registered to vote in Los Angeles County, you can vote at any polling station in the county. It’s OK if it’s a different city than the one you live in. You can find a list of polling locations here, 30 to 40 days before an election. If you are registered to vote in Orange County, you can vote at any polling station in Orange County. Polls open for early voting in Los Angeles and Orange counties on May 28.

The following nonprofits working with unhoused people will also serve as mobile vote centers:

LA Family Housing: Winn Community Room, 6843 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

  • Early voting: June 4 – 6, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Election Day: June 7, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN): 838 E. 6th Street, Los Angeles 

  • Election Day: June 7, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • If you would like to get a reminder to vote, you can call to sign up for text message reminders at 213-228-0024.

My Friend's Place: Parking lot at 5850 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

  • Early voting: June 6, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you’re not sure where to go to cast a vote, you can call the L.A. County Registrar at (800) 815-2666. You can also reach out to nonprofits that work with unhoused people.
If you’re in places such as Skid Row, Hollywood, or South L.A., organizations like the Downtown Women’s Center, LA CAN and Spread the Vote will be doing outreach to unhoused voters. You may see a lot of activity a week or even a few days before voting.

If you’re unhoused and not in an area where there is heavy outreach, the Los Angeles Community Action Network urges you to reach out to one of these organizations so they can connect you to the information you need to cast a vote:

Spread the Vote will also help voters get to polling locations in certain areas. Call or text 323-694-0738 or go to spreadthevote.org to find out more about assistance getting to a polling location.

If you know of an organization interested in becoming a mobile voting center, they can register on the registrar's website.

What COVID-19 protocol should I follow?

The county recommends a few safety protocols to protect from COVID-19 if you’re voting in person.

  • Wear a face mask while in line or voting
  • Wipe and sanitize all surfaces and Ballot Marking Devices after each voter
  • Maintain social distancing

Can I bring my pet or belongings with me when I vote?

Service animals are allowed in polling stations, but other types of pets are typically not.

L.A. Family Housing, L.A. Community Action Network, and My Friend's Place will assist voters who arrive with pets or belongings that can't be brought into their mobile vote centers. Those details are above.

What do I do if a poll worker tries to turn me away?

Poll workers aren’t allowed to discriminate against people experiencing homelessness or keep them from casting a vote. If you run into issues, you should ask to speak to the person in charge of that polling station. If they don't help you, call the California Secretary of State's voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683) for English or (800) 345-VOTA (8682) for Spanish.

How do I figure out who to vote for?

One of the biggest barriers to voting, regardless of whether you are housed or unhoused, is the same: getting the information you need to make a decision.

First, you can explore our full Voter Game Plan to help you figure it all out. You can also reach us by submitting a question in the "Ask a question" box below, at engagement@scpr.org, or by text by texting the word "ELECTION" to 855-458-8317.

In addition, two local nonprofits publish their own voter guides: Keep an eye out for guides from California Calls, an alliance of community based organizations that takes input from organizations working on the ground with unhoused people, and Spread the Vote, which provides nonpartisan description of candidates, what the job is, and what your rights are as a voter.

These guides can be found at shelters and other nonprofits as Election Day draws closer.

And finally, you can always call your county elections office with any questions. A full list of California elections offices is available here.]

How can I get a printout of this information?

Download a flyer version of this FAQ here. Feel free to share it. You can also email us at engagement@scpr.org if you would like LAist to ship or drop off copies.

Additional resources

Updated May 19, 2022 at 10:52 AM PDT
This story was updated to add additional resources for voters.
Most Read