During Domestic Violence Awareness month, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new bill into law on Thursday, Oct. 28 to protect the confidentiality of domestic violence survivors’ voter registration records for their safety.
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and state Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) introduced the legislation in January.
Rozic applauded Hochul for signing the crucial legislation into law to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.
“No survivor should have to give up their right to vote in order to protect themselves from abuse. This law will ensure that survivors of domestic violence have a fair and straightforward way to keep their voter registration details confidential enabling them to vote without fear,” Rozic said.
According to Myrie, no New Yorker should have to choose between registering to vote and their personal safety.
“I’m proud to have sponsored this legislation with AM Rozic that will protect the privacy of domestic violence survivors and ensure they can safely exercise their rights,” Myrie said.
The legislation would continue to allow localities to verify a voter’s information while protecting them from potentially exposing their place of residence to their abuser. This change would mimic the language and threshold for entry used in section 11-306 of the election law which already allows a domestic violence survivor to submit a written statement swearing or affirming that they are a victim of domestic violence and need a special ballot.
The bill would streamline the election law and provide the same standard for both sections of the law.
Last year, Rozic authored a law that allows domestic violence survivors who receive an order of protection to be granted protection from abuse via Internet-connected smart devices that can be controlled from an app, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are often used as tools for harassment, abuse and control.
They include security systems that can lock or unlock doors and windows, cameras, thermostats, sprinklers, voice-activated assistants and speakers, lights and more.
Local organizations such as Safe Horizon, Sanctuary for Families, the Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC) and Shalom Task Force, thanked Rozic and Myrie for their leadership, and Hochul for her commitment to expanding voting access.
“The right to vote is one of our nation’s most fundamental and powerful rights. For too many survivors of domestic violence, the fear of having their registration record made public prevents them from participating in our democracy and making their voices heard,” said Jimmy Meagher, policy director at Safe Horizon. “This law will make it easier for survivors to keep their registration record confidential so they can access the ballot box while maintaining their safety.”
Jeehae Fischer, executive director of KAFSC, said the passage of the law provides protections and empowers survivors on a path towards a life of health, dignity, and free from violence.
“KAFSC applauds Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Senator Zellnor Myrie in working to pass this important legislation ensuring survivors of gender-based violence have the protections they need to guarantee their safety and confidentiality while practicing their right to vote,” Fischer said.
Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, said the lawmakers’ legislation creates an avenue for survivors to safely exercise one of their most fundamental rights.
“Experiencing domestic violence should not be a barrier to voting but for some survivors, the risk that an abusive partner may track them down through public voter records is too great,” Kluger said.
Shoshannah Frydman, executive director of the Shalom Task Force, said that addressing confidentiality is critical to the safety of many of their clients in the most dangerous situations.
“Easing the process to obtain confidentiality of their voter records, not only eases the logistical burden and stress on the victim-survivors but we are also sending a message that we believe them,” Frydman said.