The Voteless

A few weeks ago, I interviewed a homeless man at the studio where he paints. Every morning, he goes to a room in a church, sits in a certain spot near the corner, and puts brush to canvas. His work is hopeful and happy, despite his predicament. The day I sat with him, he painted two laughing ladies in a park, one in a pink polka-dotted dress and matching shoes.

We started to talk about the election, and another man joined in. I asked if they were registered to vote. The other man said that he had tried to send in the proper forms, but didn’t receive a card, something about his address. It’s hard to get mail at the shelter. Finally, though, he succeeded. The man I was interviewing hadn’t registered, though he wanted to vote. I told him he could go to the library and do it online. He said he’d try. He knew whom he would vote for. I got the feeling that he might be easily frustrated with the process, and wanted to put him in my car and take him that second. 

Last night on television, I heard Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. talk about how the oldest, most decrepit voting machines are sent to poor black precincts. He urged people to vote early, if they could, to avoid this and other tactics of suppression. I called the shelter to find out if they were helping people register, and whether they’d be providing transportation to polling places on Election Day. The man said that most of the people who stay there have just come from prison, or are trying to beat their addiction to drugs, or don’t have driver’s licenses. Voting isn’t something that these men are up to right now. But, if someone had the identification and the desire, the shelter would help him any way it could, he told me. I wonder if the men know to ask.

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