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Safe Voting Tips for Survivors

November 2, 2022

As we approach Election Day next week, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) shares a reminder that domestic violence survivors deserve to—and can—participate safely in all aspects of our country’s political process (including voting) without fearing further violence from an abuser. It’s also essential for survivors to be aware of the ways their voter information is collected and used to help them make informed decisions about their safety.

Safe Voting Tips for Survivors

It’s never a survivor’s fault if someone chooses to make them feel unsafe or afraid for exercising their right to vote. Some domestic violence survivors may find it helpful to create a safety plan around voting if they suspect an abuser may choose to do this. A voting safety plan might include some of the following elements, depending on what a survivor decides is right for them:

Vote during a time when an abuser is busy. If a survivor is worried about being joined by, or running into, an abuser at their polling place, they can think about the abuser’s schedule and try to pick a time when they may be busy.

Ask a friend for support. Even if a friend (or family member, or other trusted person) can’t be with a survivor in-person, maybe they can stay in touch via text. Does a survivor know a neighbor who’s voting in-person? Maybe they can see if they’re willing to head to the polling place together.

Do research beforehand and vote quickly. Planning how to vote can save time at the polling place, especially if a survivor is worried about seeing an abuser.

Practice self-care before and after voting. Planning a fun or relaxing activity around voting can help minimize stress. Does the survivor have a favorite grounding activity? Perhaps they can practice it while waiting in line.

Ask a poll worker about secret voting. If a survivor is voting with an abuser and worries they may force the vote, they can ask a poll worker about casting a secret ballot if it’s safe to do so.

Consider vote-by-mail options. Voting by mail has become more common, and all states offer some form of absentee voting (with different requirements in each state). This can be especially helpful for survivors who have safety concerns about seeing an abuser at their polling place, or whose schedules don’t allow them to vote on Election Day. Learn more about voting by mail and absentee voting in this blog from NNEDV’s Safety Net team.

Availability of Voter Registration Information

Depending on a survivor’s state or territory, their voter registration records may be considered public records, even if they include personally identifying information like names and home addresses. This can be especially concerning for survivors who are concerned an abuser would choose to use this information in order to find, stalk, or further harm them.

All states allow some form of access to voter registration records. However, several states allow personal information to be withheld if it’s specifically designated as confidential, and many states have Address Confidentiality Programs (ACPs) to provide some privacy and protection of voter records. For a detailed list of states’ ACPs, check out this chart compiled by our Safety Net team.

Online and automatic voter registration have also gained popularity in recent years, and these systems can provide more accessibility for survivors and reduce barriers to participating. However, abusers may also find ways to use any online system as a new avenue to cause harm. Find more information in our blog.

Every survivor deserves to choose what may or may not be helpful and appropriate for them when participating in the political process—and every survivor deserves for that process to be safe, private, and trauma-informed. There is still work to be done. Support us and help create a world where every survivor’s privacy is protected during the election process and everywhere.

For peace and safety,

 Deborah J. Vagins
NNEDV President and CEO