At this week’s meeting, the Council will discuss a proposal allowing individuals who are experiencing homelessness to use a City building address in the district in which they reside as their residential address on the County’s Voter Registration forms, which would enable them to vote in City elections.

Last spring, Giovanni Marchand, a student in the Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program at the University of Maryland contacted the City about building a nonprofit organization to address hunger and homelessness in Washington D.C., Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County.

Their goal is to empower low-income people by hosting voter registration and voter education events at food pantries and soup kitchens, so they can elect candidates who advocate for policies that support their best interests. They have identified the November municipal election in College Park as a local election on which to focus their efforts before they expand their reach to a larger population.

Mr. Marchand asked the City to assist with a voter registration drive for the homeless in this area by allowing people experiencing homelessness to use the address of a City of College Park building as their residential address so that they can register to vote. He originally asked to use only the YFS building address.

Giovanni ‘s proposal was that the registrant would use the City building address as their residence address and would use the address for the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland for the mailing address. The completed voter registration form would then be submitted to the Prince George’s County Board of Elections, where they will process the documents and send the voter registration cards to the mailing address provided (the School of Public Policy). Once the voter registration cards have arrived at the School of Public Policy, the students will distribute them to the newly registered voter.

The Prince George’s County Election Board processes voter registration for the City. The County, not the City, is responsible for ensuring that a person must be:
• A U.S. citizen;
• A Maryland resident; and
• At least 16 years old [they cannot vote until they are 18].

Staff spoke to Alisha Alexander, Prince George’s County Board of Elections, who confirmed that Mr. Marchand is a certified Voter Registration Volunteer with Prince George’s County and also confirmed that this is an allowable scenario and in fact is in line with the County’s procedure to register individuals experiencing homelessness. She also provided a legal directive from the Maryland Election Law Article.

After hearing from Ms. Alexander that this scenario is allowable under state law, I told Mr. Marchand that this is a Council-level decision. In the meantime, he has contacted the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare located at 4707 Calvert Road, and says that they have agreed to let him use their address to register people experiencing homelessness to vote. He said he would also contact churches in the community to see if they would assist by allowing their address to be used.

Scaling this registration scenario down to the municipal level raises a question that doesn’t apply at the County level: which Council District the homeless registrant would designate as their Council District for municipal elections. If only the 4707 Calvert Road address is being used as their residential address, everyone would register as District 3 voters.

If the Mayor and Council are interested in assisting in these efforts, Staff could identify a different City building address in each of the four Council districts that could be used on the voter registration forms:
District 1 – Youth and Family Services
District 2 – Public Works
District 3 – City Hall
District 4 – the former College Park Woods Pool Property

In this scenario, the registrant who is experiencing homelessness would self identify their district and have the opportunity to register in any of the four Council Districts.

[City of College Park]