Voter Registration Address Confidentiality Law Goes Into Effect
Beginning today, survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and violent crimes can register to hide their address from the public record. That means they’ll be able to apply for a driver’s license or register to vote, and that personal information will not be accessible to an abuser trying to track them down. Under the "Safe at Home" program, they’ll get a post office box address that they can use when applying with any government agency.
Nancy Neylon, Executive Director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network explains. "So when they go to the DMV, they will have that post office box. That’s what they will use. That’s what will appear on their drivers’ license. Every day the Secretary of State’s office will forward their mail that comes to that post office box to their actual address."
Only three people will have access to the actual address – the director and deputy director of the local board of elections and one person in Secretary of State Jon Husted's office. Husted says he’s working with the Ohio Domestic Violence Network to let people know they have one month to register to vote in this November’s general election.
"We’re recommending that they use an absentee ballot," says Husted. "And the reason is there are fewer people in the process that need to have that information about you if you use an absentee ballot. You won’t be prevented from going to the polls, but when you do that, you have to show some form of identification or you can vote a provisional ballot. But you’re adding a couple of more people in the network who will ultimately know more information about you."
The new law isn't only about giving abuse victims the right to vote, it's also about safety, says Linda Johanek, CEO of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center in Cleveland. She points out that 75% of domestic violence homicides involve a victim who was stalked before being killed.
To register for the Safe at Home program, people must provide a notarized statement that they have been victimized. The penalty for falsely registering is a first degree misdemeanor.
Ohio is the 39th state to pass a voter registration address confidentiality law.