Program lets domestic violence survivors vote without their address becoming public

KING COUNTY, Wash.  --  For survivors of domestic violence, staying safe becomes their top priority. Their lives are often impacted in ways most don’t have to consider, like registering to vote when you want your whereabouts to be kept private. With midterm elections quickly approaching, some survivors say voting can be dangerous but Washington state has a program that could help them.

When someone registers to vote in Washington state, the address they provide becomes public record and anyone can find it. For a domestic violence survivor, even providing general information during registration can potentially put their lives in danger.

“If you publicly record the cross streets, then the person who’s trying to abuse you can find your location,” said Rachel Krinsky, Executive Director for LifeWire, a domestic violence advocacy organization in King County.

LifeWire helps domestic violence survivors get their lives back on track including exercising their right to vote.

“There are many survivors who are homeless and believe that they can’t vote because they don’t have an address,” Krinsky said.

Fortunately, there is an option for those who want to vote but still maintain their privacy. The state’s Address Confidentiality Program allows survivors to keep their public records closed, as long as they’re enrolled in a domestic violence survivor program.

“What it does is route all mail to a post office box in Olympia, so that even the city where the survivor resides remains secret. There are some hassles involved. You can’t get packages, you can’t get magazines but it is a way to still correspond with the outside world and to vote,” Krinsky said.

Krinsky says joining the program is a major step and to ensure it works, a survivor should wait until they move to a new address before enrolling. The new address won’t be found online and the old address will appear instead.

For survivors who still want to vote, it’s not too late. The deadline for in-person voter registration for this year’s midterm election is October 29 in Washington state.