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Jun 05

May 2018

Posted on June 5, 2018 at 2:49 PM by Justin Flage

This 89th Edition of Justice For All spotlights the Safe at Home Act.

Over the last three months this column has addressed the topics of what domestic abuse assault in Iowa is, what the penalties and other sanctions for those who commit criminal domestic abuse assault are, and how the Iowa Domestic Abuse Program (IDAP) works. This month’s column, as a conclusion to a four part series on domestic abuse assault, will focus on the Safe at Home Act.

Safe at Home, known as “SAH”, is an address confidentiality program run by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. SAH is designed to “provide a legal substitute address, mail forwarding service, and confidential voter registration and absentee voting for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and stalking.”

In a relatively unique act of bipartisanship, a version of the Safe at Home Act was proposed by a Democrat candidate for Secretary of State but advanced by the Republican candidate for Secretary of State after he won the election. Then Governor Terry Branstad signed The Safe at Home Act into law on May 8, 2015 after it passed both bodies of the state legislature unanimously, 100-0 in the House and 45-0 in the Senate. 37 other states currently have some version of a SAH address confidentiality program in place to protect vulnerable victims.

The Secretary of State’s Office administers all aspects of SAH and estimated that approximately 500 people would be using it within its first few years of existence. Victims apply for SAH through completing an application form and submitting it either through the mail or through the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Abuse or the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault.  Four SAH staff members are the only people who have access to the secure and confidential participant database with paper documents in a locked filing cabinet in a locked office.

The Department of Transportation, the Department of Human Services, and all other state, county, and city offices are required by law to accept a legal substituted address by a program participant who has the proper certification form. At this time participants must vote in all elections via absentee ballot and not in person on election day. Ballot requests are handled by SAH staff and the State Commissioner of Elections.

The cost of the SAH program is paid for by a $100 surcharge assessed on persons convicted of domestic abuse and a $50 surcharge assessed on persons found to have violated protective orders. At the inception of the SAH program it was estimated that the approximately 2,600 individuals convicted of domestic abuse per year will fund the program through the surcharges.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate called the Safe at Home Act a “long overdue victory for the victims of abuse and sexual assault” and “legislation that provides real protection.”  Secretary Pate said. “If we save just one life, this program is worth it.”