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Facing foreclosure? Don't worry. You can still vote

By Charles Riley, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- As the foreclosure crisis continues unabated and the midterm elections approach, at least 12 states have issued guidelines that address the complicated issue of voting while in foreclosure.

Voters are required to register to vote in the county in which they live, but for individuals in the middle of a messy foreclosure, residency is sometimes difficult to pin down as they bounce from rental to rental or crash with family or friends.

Befuddled by foreclosures?
1. What are "robo-signers?"
A) Computers that auto-approve loans.
B) Bank employees who sign loan documents without first reviewing their content.
C) Powerful cyborgs that pressure bank employees to sign off on financial documents that are known to be inaccurate.

In Ohio, where roughly 7% of homes are in foreclosure, the Ohio Secretary of State released a statement that county boards of election "may not cancel an Ohioan's voter registration based solely on the fact that the person is involved in the foreclosure process. The filing of a foreclosure action does not affect a voter's right to vote until there is a final judgment entry."

Each state sets its own rules, but the bottom line is this: Owning a home in foreclosure doesn't affect your right to vote, but it might affect where you vote. So be prepared when you head to the polls.

"Our big concern is that people are just confused about what their rights are," says Robert Brandon, president of the Fair Elections Legal Network, a liberal leaning election rights group. "We wanted to clarify that they were still going to be able to vote."

Concerns over voters in foreclosure being turned away at the polls -- or having their votes disqualified in case of a recount -- date to the 2008 presidential race, when the Obama campaign took legal action on the issue.

The Obama campaign filed suit in federal court against a county branch of the Michigan GOP alleging the group planned to challenge votes cast by individuals who had lost their homes to foreclosure.

The local GOP denied the allegations, and both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee later agreed that voting eligibility cannot be challenged due to a foreclosure.

That was two years ago, and while the politically motivated threats around the issue of foreclosure and voting rights have subsided, the foreclosure steamroller continues. According to a Morgan Stanley analyst report, more than 3 million homes are in foreclosure -- and that's a massive number of votes.

While each state sets its own rules, the United States Election Assistance Commission has issued some general guidelines:

  • If you've moved recently -- due to foreclosure or any other reason -- you must re-register if you've changed counties or states. If you moved within your county, just update your address.
  • In most states, you can make a change of address up until election day, or vote with a provisional ballot if you can't be found on the voter rolls.
  • If the foreclosure process has started on your home, but you have yet to move out, you remain registered to vote and should go to your appointed precinct.
  • If your foreclosure is complete, and you have exhausted your rights of appeal or redemption, then you should update your voter registration to reflect your new address.
  • However, many states allow you to use the address of the foreclosed property if you have not yet established a new permanent address.

For more information on how to check the rules in your state, click hereTo top of page

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