FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — Some Arkansans may not be voting in order to protect their safety. However, a law passed in the last legislative session is giving them some protection.
This law is specifically for victims of domestic violence.
“They were told that they didn’t have a voice or that it didn’t matter,” said Stacy Seger, Director of the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter. The shelter serves Benton, Washington, Madison and Carroll Counties.
The 2022 midterm is the first November election in which victims of domestic violence in Arkansas have a layer of protection when voting. Seger said it’s been a journey to get this law on the books.
“It’s come about in two parts,” she said. “The first part passed a while ago where victims of domestic violence are able to hide their address and identifying information when they get an ID like a driver’s license.”
In the 2021 legislative session, Arkansas lawmakers took it a step further. They allowed victims of domestic violence to keep their voting addresses private.
Seger said in the last year, the NWA Women’s Shelter offered more than 5,000 safe nights of shelter to more than 500 individuals and families.
“They are able to feel a little more secure in being an active participant in their community because they will be able to be safe,” she said.
People who want this protection do have to provide documentation.
The first option would show you are a victim of any offense under Arkansas’ criminal statute for offenses involving the family. The second option would show you’ve been granted an order protection under the Domestic Abuse Act of 1991. The third shows you’ve been recognized as a victim of domestic violence in any civil or criminal court order or ruling.
“One thing that we see a lot with our clients and survivors of domestic violence is for so long, at the hands of their abuser, their voice was silenced,” she said.
You have to go to your local county clerk to request this secure voter status.
“It’s because of things like this, where our victims will start to gain more empowerment, more courage,” she said.
This request has to be done as you’re registering to vote. So for future elections, you have to get this done before the voter registration deadline.