By Shelia M. Poole
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
5:23 p.m. Thursday, January 7, 2010
Georgia victims of domestic abuse may get some peace of mind, thanks to a change in the voting registration process that will keep their addresses confidential.
The U.S. Department of Justice has signed off on the program, called VoteSafe, which was approved by the Georgia legislature in 2009 and signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Under the Voting Rights Act, DOJ approval is necessary for any changes to Georgia’s election procedures. VoteSafe would provide residency confidentiality to certain registered voters who have been, or may be, exposed to domestic violence, stalking, under protection orders or currently live in a family violence shelter.
“This is a very big deal for people who have gone underground, moving across the country and doing whatever they can to not be found by their batterers,” said Nicole Lesser, executive director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
She and others, who work with victims, say it’s not unheard of for stalkers and abusers to use the Internet and public records to locate people. “All the programs used to create more access for people can be used against them.”
Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), who sponsored the legislation, said it could save lives — not just the victim’s but others around them. People should not have to make a choice “between their safety or casting a vote,” she said.
According to the Secretary of State’s Web site, voter registration lists and files, which are available to the public, include a voter’s name, residence address, mailing address if different, race, gender, registration date and last voting date. For a fee, the public can buy that information.
According to National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Web site, 28 states have approved some form of voter confidentiality programs.