Iowa advocates for housing for the poor are upset over a last-minute provision added to a big housing bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jim Cain at the Iowa Coalition for Housing and the Homeless says it bans any housing organization from offering voter registration to clients. A nonprofit can register to people to vote under the current law, and hold things like voter forums, as long as they do it in a nonpartisan way. The new amendment says they can’t do that using any housing funds, and also can’t hold the nonpartisan voter events or information using their own money that doesn’t come from the fund. The House passed HR-1461, the amendment preventing voter registration, yesterday. The bill itself creates a 600-Million-dollar fund to allow nonprofits to develop affordable housing for low-income people. Cain says Republican leaders in the House inserted an amendment “at the last minute” that prevents nonprofit organizations from getting money from the fund if they were engaged in activities like nonpartisan voter registration, helping residents get out and vote, or other or other voter-participation activities in the last 12 months. Cain says there are already rules in place to ensure nonprofit housing programs don’t engage in partisan political activity. Cain says “Low-income and homeless people are some of the most disenfranchised voters in the country and in the state.” He says many housing organizations will will help residents update their voter registration when they move in, and housing offices often have voter-registration materials available among the services they provide to their residents. Housing organizations are just one of many civic organizations Cain says traditionally have been encouraged to help people register and get to the polls. Iowa Congressman Jim Leach was among 13 Republicans in the House to vote against the amendment. Cain says a Senate version of the low-income housing bill which is still in the floor-debate stage does NOT include the ban on voter registration. The Iowa Coalition for Housing and the Homeless provides public education, public-policy advocacy and technical assistance on issues related to affordable housing and homelessness in Iowa.
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