Home Social Justice New Ohio bill will protect the privacy of domestic violence victims

New Ohio bill will protect the privacy of domestic violence victims

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An Ohio bill that will shield the addresses of victims of domestic violence, stalking and other crimes when they are registering to vote, went into effect Thursday.

Voter registration makes addresses of voters a public record by law, which previously made domestic violence victims vulnerable to their attackers.  House Bill 359 will help protect the anonymity of the victims while not dissuading them from voting.

The passage of this bill makes Ohio the 39th state to engage in the protection of victims’ home addresses.

The Ohio Domestic Violence Network was a heavy backer of the legislation and partnered with Republican Secretary John Husted in campaigning for its passage.

“I am very pleased that Ohio is now able to offer this important protection to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking,” ODVN Director Nancy Neylon said. “I appreciate the great collaborative relationships we had with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office and the Ohio General Assembly in getting this legislation passed.”

To avoid any possibility of confidential information being disseminated, the state of Ohio has created an approach that will be used at all voting stations. Part of this procedure includes an Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) number that victims will use to ensure their addresses are shielded, according to a press release from the Secretary of State.

“It is unacceptable that there are those in America who are forced to choose between their personal liberties and their personal safety,” Husted said in the press release.

P.O. boxes are assigned to the participants to shield home addresses that criminals find from voting registrations and driver’s license applications.

In 2014, there were 64,531 calls to law enforcement in Ohio about domestic violence and disputes, according to the ODVN.

The bill, better known as the Address Confidentiality Program, passed without opposition in the Ohio Legislature.

While on the House floor, proponents of the bill cited three homicides in Canton, Ohio, from 2009. Marcia Eakin reported that her ex-husband stalked her and then killed her mother, two children, and severely harmed Ms. Eakin. The case showed that her address was found through the public voter registration records.

HB 359 states:

“The residence address or precinct of a program participant who has a confidential voter registration record, as described in this section, shall not appear in the statewide voter registration database or in the official registration list. The program participant’s program participant identification number shall appear in place of that information.”

California has instituted the “safe at home” confidentiality program since 1999 and has enrolled over 7,000 victims. States that have instituted similar programs help victims not only of physical violence but of stalking as well.

This bill will benefit many of the victims who have gone to the ODVN, which offers resources for survival and prevention in domestic violence situations.

The timing of the bill coincides with the 2016 election on Nov. 8. The protection that the legislation provides could potentially create an increase in voter participation.

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