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Now, Ohioans living on a park bench can vote for McCain or Obama

A park bench like the one you can now live on in Ohio and claim as your voting address

(UPDATE: See below.)

A federal judge ruled this week that Ohioans can cast ballots next Tuesday even if their "residence" is a park bench or street grating.

U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus says that voters, presumably the homeless, need not have an actual address in order to vote and help determine whether Ohio's crucial 20 electoral votes go to the Republican presidential ticket of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin or the Democratic ticket of Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The lawsuit was brought by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, whose attorney claimed that local election officials had made the ridiculous assertion that they needed actual addresses to verify and accept legitimate voters.

(UPDATE: Conan O'Brien on hearing this Ticket news: "“A judge in Ohio has ruled that homeless people are allowed to vote and that they can list their home address as 'a park bench.' Ohio officials say that a park bench may not be the most traditional place to live –- but it’s still a lot nicer than Cleveland.”)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Comments () | Archives (15)

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well why not. they are citizens too.

Malcom would prefer it if only land owners could vote, would keep us all so much more civilized. Everyone knows all homeless people should be stripped of all Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. Makes perfect sense, really, tax cuts for the top 1 percent, no votes for the bottom 1 percent! Excellent reasoning by another L.A. Times free thinking Maverick. Let those park bench occupying poor people suck it.

With such a ruling,what's to prevent Obama's buses from driving them from county to county to vote repeatedly?The courts must uphold the integrity of this election, which can only take place if each person is required to have a valid photo ID to verify their identity and that they are a registered voter. Plese don't make this election into a mockery.We've already had to deal with the media "blackout" on not reporting on facts.Infact,they have intentionally withheld valuable information that voters need to make an informed decision. Please look at to learn about where Obama's economic policy would take us.Also google Obama/redistribution bombshell to learn about his plans for redistrubution and reparations.

A sign that America is changing for the better, the most disenfranchised part of society (Homeless) can vote.

This is such a good thing, seriously. Often times the homeless feel forgotten and voiceless. I really do hope other states start catching on and follow suit.

Homeless people and young people aren't as involved in the voting process. I think that campaigns like Rock the Vote are helping change things. I hope more positive changes like this continue to spread.

I think more media attention should be brought forth to raise awareness and to give young people a voice. Here's a quick video of Bootsy Collins(!) doing a PSA for Rock the Vote.

When will the LA Times release the Rashid Khalidi/Obama tape?

Did you know the reward/bribe is now up to $150K?

I am sure the park bench constituents are citizens (probably). However, I certainly wonder how they are making their decision about who to vote for. Of course, they have easy access to newspapers, but I have to believe that the persons getting them to register and take them to the polls areflagerantly telling them who to vote for and my guess is rewarding them for the process. The homeless I have helped in the past are not assertive and generally will behave the way their benefactor desires.

Why do I think 95 percent of the people living on Park Benches will be voting for Obama?

Who is the Los Angeles Times trying to kid?

So, so sad a Federal employee would act so idioticly.

I can just imagine how many of them would be voting w/ McCain. All that talk about Obama raising their taxes and redistributing wealth will have them among the first in line on 11/4. But I'm not sure it'll be GOP.

If Obama wins, he will be the first US president who is above reproach, to critize Obama is deemed to be racist!

Can all of the homeless people read, do they understand what they read, are many of them mentally impaired, and are they being led from voting place to voting place by ACORN and told who to vote for? You can use a bench address and different names to enable one person to vote hundreds of times. These are people connected to and voting for Barack Obama. With these kind of people and lies and spending almost a billion dollars in this bad economy with many lost jobs, Obama Is hoping to win by fraud and buying this election. This man is not fit to be president. What crimes won't he commit if he becomes president?

It is strange that the matter of a homeless person's right to vote makes news in 2008, and it is strange that a case was even necessary because the matter has been ruled on before and the finding was just as in this case, that all citizens have the right to vote regardless of whether they have homes.

The case was in 1984 in a federal district court in New York, in which Judge Mary Lowe ordered the Board of Elections of the City of New York to begin registering all potential voters regardless of whether they have homes or not. It actually referred to a park bench in that case too.

I assume, and hope, that New York City has been registering homeless people since then, but why other cities and rural areas have not, I do not know. District Court rulings are not necessarily binding outside the area, but you would think that this case at least would have been known about, and the principle that all citizens have the right to vote accepted.

In any case, here is a letter to the editor which I found in the database of the New York Times that confirms the 1984 case and explains a bit more about it.

New York Times letter to the editor Dec. 4, 1990:

"To the Editor:

I would like to correct two minor errors in your Nov. 17 article about the constitutional rights of a formerly homeless Connecticut convict. You state that last year "a Federal judge in New York ruled that for the purposes of voter registration, a park bench was a home."

Judge Mary Lowe ordered the New York City Board of Elections to enroll homeless voters in October 1984. Homeless New Yorkers thus have been registering and voting, in increasing numbers, for six full election cycles. (A resident of the Fort Washington men's shelter, Tyler Trice, even qualified as an independent candidate for State Assembly on the primary election ballot this fall.)

Further, rather than calling a park bench a home, Judge Lowe ruled that a home, as traditionally conceived, could not be made a prerequisite of the right to vote, which she called a "fundamental right, which is preservative of all other rights in a democracy." To paraphrase, she said, "You don't need a home to vote," which became our motto. WILL DANIEL Director, Homeless Voter '90 New York, Nov. 17, 1990."

I like that part about the right to vote being a fundamental right, which is preservative of all other rights in a democracy. It has a kind of "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" ring to it.

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Well, Obama won, and now I understand why..


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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