By Danielle Keeton-Olsen
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH • Thursday September 18, 2014 11:41 AM
Democrats reintroduced a bill this morning that would allow those hiding from an abuser to vote and participate in other civil duties but keep their address private.
The Address Confidentiality Program would allow victims of domestic violence, abuse and stalking who have escaped their harassers through anonymity to register a placeholder mailing address through which government agencies can contact them.
“The logic behind our bill is simple,” Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kentsaid. “People who are brave enough to leave their situations deserve the full support of their state once they rebuild their lives.”
The Secretary of State’s office would forward any mail sent to the placeholder address to that victim’s home address, which they would store privately. Those registered in the program would also be exempt from having their home address displayed in public record.
“It would allow the victims and folks who participate in this service to be civically engaged and not fear,” said Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, who is also running for secretary of state..
Individuals and their children would be accepted into the program if they have protection orders or can demonstrate threats against them from a harasser.
“A person has to relocate to do this, so many situations wouldn't apply,” Clyde said. “It's really for the most severe cases, and we certainly want to protect those women.”
The lawmakers estimate about 350 people would register for a placeholder address, based on testimonies from other states, and maintenance would be low cost, covered by election provisions.
If the bill passes, Ohio would join 37 other states that have similar protections for those protecting their identities.
The legislation had been introduced in the past two consecutive sessions. Although it is late in the session, Turner said it would behoove house leaders to consider this bill in light of recent national conversation about domestic violence.
“This is not a matter of time,” Clyde said. “This is a matter of whether or not the leadership has the courage to do this right now.”