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Why violence, abuse survivors are afraid to vote

Posted: 6:35 PM, May 12, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-12 22:35:36Z

CINCINNATI -- Local advocates for survivors of domestic and sexual violence say certain elections practices leave many vulnerable and some even too afraid to register as a voter.

“We want people to be able to register and vote without worrying if that creates problems for their personal safety,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

There’s only one problem with that goal: Voter registration information is public record and pretty easily accessible. Particularly problematic is that the Ohio voter registration card requires providing an address.

Erika Yingling, director of the Family Violence Prevention Project at the YWCA Greater Cincinnati, said she’s seen many victims of violence hesitate when considering whether to register.

Her clients, survivors of rape, stalking, human trafficking and domestic violence, try to remain invisible to their attackers, Yingling said.

And for some that means giving up their right to vote.

“There’s clients that have stated that they’ve never registered because they’ve been afraid of somebody finding out where they are,” Yingling said.

Burke said Ohio legislators are working to pass the “Safe at Home” initiative, to give survivors’ personal information protected status, which is currently reserved for law enforcement only.