On Feb. 9, HUD sent an email to PHA Executive Directors informing them what role a PHA may play in ensuring public housing residents have access to the electoral process and certain voter registration activities. PHAs should note that many electoral rules are set by the state and should ensure that they are complying with all applicable state and local laws.
Permissible PHA activities included the following:
- “Providing documentation of residence (e.g., address verification, leases, etc.) to public housing residents when requested to ensure residents are able to register to vote and vote. Your PHA and PHA residents can visit Vote.gov to determine what documentation of residence will be most helpful to persons trying to register to vote in your state.
- Applying to States to operate as a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act. States are allowed to designate state, federal and non-governmental offices as voter registration agencies.
- If your PHA would like to be considered to be a voter registration agency, you can reach out to state election officials for more information about the rules and laws for your state. HUD does not make determinations about what offices can be designated as voter registration agencies – only your state election officials can make that determination.
- For more information on what it means to be a voter registration agency, see this FAQ by the Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/crt/national-voter-registration-act-1993-nvra
- Making voter registration resources available to residents. If you are not designated by the state as a voter registration agency, you can still facilitate residents’ access to voter registration. Such permissible actions include:
- Making voter registration forms available to residents.
- If the laws of your state allow, accepting completed voter registration application forms and transmitting these forms to the appropriate State election official.
- If the voter registration laws of your state allow, running a PHA-initiated voter registration drive. However, you would need to consult with your counsel and your state election director to identify the rules and laws around voter registration drives for your state.
- Permitting the use of PHA community space on an incidental basis to hold meetings, candidate forums, or voter registration, provided that all parties and organizations have access to the facility on an equal basis and are assessed equal rent or use charges.
- Collaborating with local election administrators to permit the use of PHA space for voter drop boxes and voting sites, including for early voting.” [Citations removed.]
To meet the costs of the above activities, PHAs may use public housing operating subsidies or administrative fees from the voucher program.
PHAs must not fund partisan political facilities or activities. Additionally, PHAs should not suggest that benefits are tied to voting activity, nor should they give the appearance that voting and voter registration are not voluntary activities. Additionally, PHAs should follow all applicable civil rights laws, including those that ensure voting processes are accessible for individuals with disabilities.