YWCA, state officials tout voter confidentiality program for survivors of crime

The YWCA and the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office are promoting a key program to help survivors of domestic violence and other crimes feel more comfortable registering to vote.

Voter registration records and addresses are generally publicly available, which can be a deterrent to participation for some women.

Ohio’s Safe at Home program is a confidentiality program that shields the current addresses and polling locations for survivors of crime, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking, from public voter rolls.

The YWCA Dayton recently held a voter registration event for its residents and clients. Mattie White, Dayton unit NAACP vice president, encouraged women at the event to vote, and Kenneth Henning, southwest Ohio regional liaison with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, promoted the Safe at Home program.

“When we took office in 2019, there were about 200 participants in the Safe at Home program, and now we have over 2,000 participants,” Henning said. He said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose tasked local liaisons with encouraging prosecutors and judges to connect survivors of crime to the Safe at Home program.

Local residents who are survivors of crime who want to shield their addresses from their abusers or perpetrators can work with a YWCA advocate who is trained on getting individuals enrolled in the program. Individuals who live with survivors of crime can also sign up for the program.

Once individuals are signed up for the program, Henning said a substitute address for the participants will appear on voter registration records. He encouraged participants to vote by absentee ballot. Absentee ballot request forms can be found on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website at www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/absentee-voting/.

For participants of the Safe at Home program, only the directors of the county boards of elections are able to process those absentee ballots.

“They’re the only ones who touch it,” Henning said.

Absentee ballots can be mailed or dropped off in a drop box at the voter’s local county board of elections. For absentee ballot drop boxes, only a bipartisan team — one Democrat and one Republican — can access and unload the drop box.

Barbara Ward, advocacy manager at YWCA Dayton, said they wanted to share voter information with their residents and clients to bring power to the voices of the women and individuals they serve.

“This is us being on mission,” Ward said. “I thought it was important, especially in this election cycle, to not overlook the fact that despite barriers that they may face, their voice still matters.”

White also encouraged the YWCA residents and clients to vote, reiterating that their vote matters.

“It matters as to who represents us in Columbus,” White said.

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