Homeless Under Fire for Registering Fake Addresses to Vote

A common practice for registering homeless voters has come under fire in Charlotte, N.C., (search) where a Mecklenburg County commissioner is challenging the qualifications of more than 300 voters who registered under non-residential addresses.

"You have to have the right under North Carolina law to challenge the voter. You can't challenge a voter if you don't have any idea where he is living," said Republican County Commissioner Bill James.

Because homeless people don't have a legal residential address, the federal government allows them to draw a map to a park bench, a bridge or wherever else they stay. But James says that in North Carolina, homeless voters don't even have to do that.

State and local elections officials allow homeless voters to register using addresses of soup kitchens and other non-profit agencies they visit during the day instead of having to reveal where they spend their nights.

"To give up what little security and privacy they have would not encourage a lot of voters to come out," said Ron Clark, a homeless voter.

According to the executive director of the National Law Center (search) on homelessness and poverty, dismantling that security would be a shame.

"They are Americans. They are people who have rights protected under the Constitution, including the right to vote. To be prohibited from exercising this right, they would be even more marginalized," Maria Foscarinis said.

James insists that he is not opposing voters' rights but a double standard that makes it easier to register a group that he says favors the Democratic Party.

"If you are homeless, you can register pretty much anywhere, even an office building. If you happen to be a conservative Republican who lives in the suburbs, you have to register at the house," he said.

James said his goal is merely to protect the voter registration process from fraud, but homeless advocates argue that having to make one's sleeping area a matter of public record in order to vote creates an obstacle reminiscent of the times when only property owners could vote.

State officials are still considering James' complaint.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by Fox News' Jonathan Serrie.