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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Obstacles to Voting for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Thursday, November 01, 2018

"On November 6, Americans will head to the polls to cast a vote in one of the most important elections in a generation. Each election year, Americans hear stories concerning various tactics used to suppress the votes of American citizens—particularly communities of color—such as strict voter ID requirements, poll closures, reduced voting hours, and voter purges. Discussed less frequently, however, are the unique barriers to voting experienced by survivors of intimate partner violence. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 'the #1Thing you can do to address domestic and sexual violence is commit to voting.' Unfortunately, survivors of intimate partner violence may be unable to make their voices heard in November due to barriers in the voting process, including fear of potential retaliation, privacy concerns, and lack of important election information.

Studies on domestic violence’s impact on voting trends are sparse, and more research is needed to fully explore the ramifications of intimate partner violence in this area. This is due, at least in part, to the inherent difficulties of studying domestic violence generally, let alone in a specific context such as voting and elections. As described by Isabel Ruiz‐Pérez, Juncal Plazaola‐Castaño, and Carmen Vives‐Cases, who research domestic violence as a public health problem, 'Obtaining reliable data on this type of violence is a complex task, because of the methodological issues derived from the very nature of the phenomenon, such as the private, intimate context in which this violence often takes place, which means the problem cannot be directly observed.' However, a number of survivors have spoken publicly about how election processes, such as voter registration, deter them from participating in elections. And according to a study by the United Nations, 'The extent of election related domestic violence in all its forms, including physical violence, is currently undocumented but believed to be substantial.'

This brief explores some of the unique obstacles to voting experienced by survivors of intimate partner violence, including isolation from important election information and materials; intimidation and violence for asserting their voting preferences; and privacy concerns related to voter registration. In addition, the brief highlights recommendations for helping to ensure that survivors of intimate partner violence can make their voices heard in the democratic process without fear of violence or retribution on the part of an abuser."

Read the full brief here.