January 27, 2016
There are many unique and incredible freedoms we experience in America, not the least of which is the right to vote and participate in the process of self-governing.
Just recently, I heard the story of a woman who fled her home with her children in fear of an abusive husband. She took every precaution she could in order to conceal their location and keep her family safe. Tragically, the man tracked her down and murdered her children and mother.
How did he find them?
She registered to vote. By doing this, she included herself in the voter registration database, which Ohio law establishes as a public record.
This is not a story from a third world country, or even one from decades past. This story, and others like it, are modern realities lived out right here in the United States.
Voting is a fundamental right in this country and protecting that right is a responsibility that belongs to us all.
There are places in the world where people are afraid to participate in the political process out of fear for their health and wellbeing – The United States should not be one of those places. No Ohioan should ever have to make the decision between their personal safety and their personal liberties. Unfortunately, we are now learning that many victims of domestic violence and human trafficking choose to forego registering to vote and casting a ballot for fear of the scenario above playing out in their own lives.
Since becoming Ohio’s Secretary of State, I’ve stated our mission is to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in the Buckeye State and we have now designed a plan to make sure these victims know they are part of that mission.
In October of last year, I joined victims’ advocates and members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate to announce the Safe at Home initiative, which, once approved by the state legislature, will allow the victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and other crimes to apply for a confidential address that will shield their residence from public record.
Safe at Home will create a registry of victim advocates from around Ohio who will be specially trained to help victims of stalking or other types of violence establish a confidential Post Office Box within the Secretary of State’s Office. Anytime one of the program participants needs to register their address with a company or government agency, they can use their Post Office Box number in my office so their actual location can’t be found by the general public. Any mail received through that Post Office Box will be then forwarded to the victim’s private home address on a daily basis.
Currently, address confidentiality programs are offered in 38 states, and it is time that Ohio joins them.
I hope you will call your state representative and state senator today to encourage them to support the Safe at Home program by voting yes on House Bill 359 and Senate Bill 222. Advocates will tell you there is no more dangerous time in a victim’s life than when they are actively escaping their perpetrator.
Unfortunately, there are Ohioans who still choose to not to vote, not because of lack of access to the ballot, but out of fear for their lives and the safety of their families. By implementing Safe at Home, we can send them a message that while they are going through this difficult time, we’ll be there to have their back.
For more information, please contact Joshua Eck at (614) 466-2729