Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn is one of 36 county prosecuting attorneys from across Ohio to endorse Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s “Safe at Home” initiative, which is intended to protect voters from becoming victims of violent crimes.
The address listed on a voter’s registration is, by statute, a public record and logged within the individual county’s voter rolls and reported to the Secretary of State for inclusion in the Statewide Voter Database. Victims’ advocates report that individuals who have been subject to violent crimes will commonly choose to not register to vote for fear that their attacker may be able to locate and harm them.
“Currently we have statutes that deal with law enforcement home addresses being available, public documents,” Kuhn told the Daily Times. “And certainly we have issues with violence to stalking victims. If they have moved or are trying to avoid their abuser – sometimes other crime victims – that if they want to remain where their information is not public record, then they have to make the decision, do they vote or do they remain in hiding? That’s certainly one thing that I don’t think individuals ought to have to do. I think they should be protected from their abuser without giving up their right to vote.”
Husted’s Safe at Home initiative would, if approved by the legislature, allow victims to apply for a confidential address through the Secretary of State’s Office in order to shield their personal information from public view so they can register to vote and cast a ballot without fear that their location may be disclosed to the public. Registrants would work through a victim’s advocate, who can connect them with additional services that ensure their safety and well-being, to enroll in the program.
“It may not surprise many to know there are those in the world who do not vote out of fear for their personal safety,” Husted said. “But, it may come as surprise to find out those people are our friends and neighbors right here in Ohio.”
The initiative has also been endorsed by Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk, 10 mayors and three city police chiefs as well as a number of organizations and law enforcement and victim advocacy groups.
Secretary Husted’s Safe at Home initiative has been introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly as House Bill 359, jointly sponsored by Representatives Mike Duffey (R–Worthington) and Anne Gonzalez (R–Westerville), and Senate Bill 222, jointly sponsored by Senators Peggy Lehner (R–Kettering) and Sandra Williams (D–Cleveland). House Bill 359 passed the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously on January 27, 2016 and is awaiting a vote in the Ohio Senate.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.