October 16, 2020

Domestic violence survivors face additional barriers to voting safely, complicated further by COVID-19

The National Network to End Domestic Violence put together state-by-state resources to access voter protection programs.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence published this list of resources to help survivors vote safely on Election Day. Photo by Element5 Digital/Unsplash

With less than three weeks before Election Day, organizations are working overtime to get out the vote, ensuring people have the necessary information to cast their ballot and make their voices heard. Survivors of domestic violence often have additional barriers to voting freely and safely.

When they are with their abuser, a survivor might be isolated from important information. This can occur if an abuser restricts access to the internet and social media, an important source of political and civic information, or if they hide voting materials received through the mail. Survivors also may be subjected to violence due to their voting choices.

Quarantine measures and work-from-home rules due to COVID-19 add additional layers of complication to the voting process—an issue not often discussed when it comes to the wider problem of domestic violence.

“When you’re dealing with domestic violence, you want to vote. But when you’re looking at if it’s safe to fill out the ballot and leave the house and risk being seen, many will choose safety first,” Karen Parker, president and CEO of Charlotte’s Safe Alliance told the Charlotte Observer. “But many don’t talk about it that much because when people are dealing with violence, the violence itself is the primary issue. There are so many things they face.”

For survivors who have left their abuser, there are privacy concerns surrounding voting, as their physical address could be revealed during the voter registration process. This is even more of an issue due to COVID-19, when voters have been encouraged to request mail-in ballots which are sent to their homes. Nearly 40 states offer a privacy program to hide physical addresses of vulnerable registered voters, but implementation of these programs vary across the country.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Know your state’s privacy offerings. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) has gathered every address and voter protection program for each state. Check out what’s available in your state here.
  • Plan your Election Day strategy. NNEDV also offers a resource that outlines certain measures a person can take, including registering to vote with a temporary address as well as using Election Day Registration, an option in some states, to ensure their information will not be publicly available in a state’s database before Election Day.
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224
  • If necessary, find a domestic violence shelter in your area at www.domesticshelters.org.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the Deputy Editor of The Renewal Project.