As domestic-violence prevention and response continue in national conversation, local state representatives are taking steps they believe would protect victims.

As domestic-violence prevention and response continue in national conversation, local state representatives are taking steps they believe would protect victims.

State Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), who represents Dublin, Worthington and parts of Columbus in the Ohio House of Representatives' 21st District, is co-sponsoring a bill that is intended to take addresses of victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking and other charges out of public records.

Public access to that information, he said, could give "abusers and stalkers" an easy way to find their former victims. Duffey said the bill is far from complete, but in theory, it would set up an application system to allow for a "P.O. Box" address, run by the Ohio Secretary of State's Office, to replace public-address listings.

Although the bill is written to help a broad range of victims, Duffey said, he has a personal connection to the concept that he discovered when he took to the campaign trail.

"I can't talk too much about the person I know without revealing their identity, but someone I've known for a very long time was a victim of domestic violence and had utilized a program like this in another state and now lives in Ohio," he said. "They said, 'Hey, I can't register to vote.' I asked why, ... and they said, 'As soon as I register, my abuser will be able to find me.' "

Also co-sponsoring is Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick), who represents the southeast portions of Franklin County in the 20th District.

"Under current Ohio law, when a person registers to vote, the voter's address becomes public record," Bishoff said. "This could allow a victim's former abuser to find her. For too long, victims of crimes such as domestic violence have had to choose between their right to vote and their right to safety."

Duffey agreed.

"People go to the lengths now of having to organize a holding company to have to buy a property so that it's not listed in their name because that's all listed online," he said. "It's one thing to have to go through inconvenient hurdles, but it's another to say, 'Under no circumstance whatsoever can you vote without revealing your address publically.' That's unacceptable to me."

Bishoff said the bill would "protect the safety of domestic violence, human trafficking and stalking survivors."

"It would create an address-confidentiality program to shield a victim's home address and allow survivors to register to vote without fear of being located by a previous stalker or offender," she said.

Similar laws exist in many states, including neighboring Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"By following the lead of over 30 states, Ohio can empower victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and stalking by allowing survivors the ability to exercise their basic right to vote without fear," Bishoff said.

Duffey and Bishoff have been working with the Secretary of State Jon Husted and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network to develop the bill, and Duffey's hopes are high of a successful vote when the bill is introduced in "two or three weeks," he said

"I would guess there's a 75-percent chance or higher of this passing in this General Assembly," he said. "The Secretary of State's Office supports it, and they're emotionally in a place of, 'We need to do this. Let's support this.' "

Duffey led a program called the DataOhio Initiative in 2013 that was designed to ease access to public records and said he would understand concerns about limiting public-record access in these cases.

The cause, however, outweighs those concerns, he said, pointing to the application system that would allow only those who need to hide their address access to the program.

"We're balancing the public interest and open records," he said.

Although he doesn't have every detail of the bill or every logistics question worked out yet, Duffey said, he knows it's a long process to have the bill changed, improved and ultimately accepted.

"It's impossible, I've found, to introduce a bill that's perfect," he said. "So it's better to just get it introduced and have people make suggestions on how to improve it."