Senate OKs concealing domestic violence victims' addresses

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan Senate unanimously approved Tuesday a legislative package to ensure domestic violence victims’ addresses are hidden from public view.

A seven-bill package would create an “address confidentiality program” to allow victims to use alternative addresses provided by the state. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget would then receive the victims’ mail and forward the mail to the victims’ actual addresses.

Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, who sponsored the main bill in the package, predicted that hundreds of people would use the program. They would be individuals whose lives or children’s lives were in danger and individuals willing to move to conceal their new addresses from abusers, Johnson said.

State Sen. Ruth Johnson

“For anybody that’s been abused or stalked to the point that their life is in danger, we needed a system where people would be able to hide their whereabouts,” Johnson said after the votes.

Victims of stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking would be able to participate in the program. The Attorney General’s office would handle individuals’ applications. The office has predicted that the program would cost about $300,000.

The bills would ensure a participant’s voter registration application couldn’t be disclosed through a Freedom of Information Act request and absentee ballots sent to the person would go to the alternative address.

The bills would ban school districts from disclosing a student’s address if the student or a guardian participated in the program. And they would require the Secretary of State's office to send new personal ID cards or driver’s licenses to program participants, using their alternative addresses.

Johnson said the idea is to ensure that there’s no path for a stalker to use state records to determine a victim’s actual address.

“If there is one link in the chain that’s weak, then the whole chain is weak,” Johnson said.

Because the program sets alternative addresses for participants, the bills would also exempt those individuals from jury service while they're in the program.

The seven bills passed 38-0 and now go to the state House. A similar package of bills passed the Senate in 2018 but ultimately didn’t receive floor votes in the House.