Voter Registration is Violence Prevention
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Canyon Creek Services.
Written by: Autumn Thatcher, CCS Volunteer
One of our greatest responsibilities as citizens of the United States is to vote. When citizens vote, they elect representatives that will be making decisions for the nation and their local areas. Although in the beginning this right was only available to white land-owners, over time more individuals have been granted citizenship and a more diverse voting population has been created.
In the state of Utah, all citizens who are at least 18 years old are allowed to vote through the mail or in person if they are able to comply with the state’s Voter ID laws. Although in the state of Utah more people are enfranchised than ever before, the imposed Voter ID laws create difficulties for some individuals including women, immigrants, people affected by homelessness, people of color, and survivors of domestic violence. These people often face significant barriers while trying to cast their ballots and have their voices heard at the polls.
In order to vote in person in Utah, an individual must show one form of photo ID or two other forms of ID that show their legal name and current residence. For many this may not be a problem, and even if they did not have the needed documentation, obtaining the documentation and paying the fee would not be difficult. However, for individuals experiencing poverty or a lack of access to financial resources, obtaining this needed documentation may not be an option. Making the decision to pay for the needed documentation to vote or to pay to put food on the table is typically an easy choice and means that they don’t end up casting a ballot.
Voter ID laws also present an often unseen burden on women broadly at the polls due to issues related to name changes. According to the National Organization of Women Foundation (NOW), an estimated 34% of women may be turned away at the polls due to not having the correct documentation. Voter ID laws indicate that all names on documentation must be identical or the potential voter is turned away. NOW found that roughly 90% of women change their names when they are married, which also requires them to change all of their needed documentation. Women are more vulnerable to being turned away at the polls due to these laws because they are more likely to change their names or unable to file the proper paperwork if they are experiencing financial difficulty. Women that lack financial resources due to homelessness, poverty, domestic violence and discriminatory financial practices may not be able to have their names changed on documentation which results in them being unable to vote.
Women who experience domestic violence face additional challenges in regards to voting. Domestic violence abusers exert power and control over others. One extremely common tactic to control a survivor is to withhold and destroy government documents. Not only does this make it very difficult to make a name change, but it prevents survivors from applying for public benefits, housing, employment and other services.
Establishing a permanent residence, which is needed to vote in the state of Utah, can also create safety ramifications for survivors. Maintaining an undisclosed location is often extremely important in order to ensure a survivor’s privacy and safety. Updating government documents to reflect one’s actual location can cause serious harm to the survivor if the abuser is allowed access to the documentation. Survivors, then, are not only being placed in positions of control by their abusers, but also by these voter ID laws. These laws are intended to decrease voter fraud, but disproportionately impact women, survivors and others at the polls.
Canyon Creek Services supports policies that empower survivors and promote gender equality. Voter registration and access to voting is important because without it, citizens are unable to fulfill their civic duty and be engaged in the governance of their community. Accessible voting promotes community connectedness, which protects from domestic and sexual violence. Community connectedness and engagement is a key component of preventing all kinds of public health issues including intimate partner violence. Research compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds that people who vote are more likely to be involved in their community and engaged in activities that increase community connectedness. By promoting voter registration and educating our community about Voter ID laws, we can see an increased voter turnout and our community can reap the benefits of a more involved citizenry.
Canyon Creek Services is holding two voter registration drives outside the Cedar City Library in the Park 303 North 100 East where staff will assist individuals in registering either online or using a paper form. Paper forms will be delivered to the Iron County Clerk’s office free of charge by the SUU Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service. Drives will be held September 22nd from 11 AM - 1 PM and on September 26th from 2 PM - 4 PM. Individuals who attend must bring a Utah Driver’s License or Utah ID Card in order to register.
To register to vote online at vote.utah.gov, individuals need a valid UT Driver’s License or State ID # as well as a current address. Registration information must be received by the Iron County Clerk’s office by October 23rd in order to vote in this year’s election.
Canyon Creek Services (CCS) provides free and confidential services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Iron, Beaver and Garfield counties. Services include emergency shelter, crisis intervention, information and referral, court and medical advocacy, mental health services, housing advocacy, safety planning and more. Help is available via the 24 hour hotline 435-233-5732 (call or text). CCS also provides awareness, education and prevention services in order to achieve our vision of “Communities Free of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.” For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.