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Candidates with ‘reasonable fear’ may be able to keep their home address private

In an era where disrupting the home lives of politicians is becoming more frequent, an idea is being proffered to better protect candidates and their families.

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls), HF1207 would expand current statute that allows a candidate to request their home address be classified as private data if “a police report has been submitted or an order for protection has been issued in regard to the safety of the candidate or the candidate's family.”

The bill would include if a “candidate has a reasonable fear” for the safety of themselves or their family.

“The reasonable fear would have to be articulated in the affidavit of candidacy,” Long said. “As happens now, the candidate’s home address would still be on file as a separate form. Also, as happens now, the campaign would still need to list a candidate’s campaign contact address such as a P.O. Box or a separate address where they could be reached by mail.”

Current law provides a process for a filing officer to verify a residence if necessary to determine eligibility to hold office when a candidate’s address is deemed private.

The bill was held over Tuesday by the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. Its companion, SF1480, awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee. Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) is the sponsor.

Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) said his house has been targeted a number of times. He would like more clarity on what defines “reasonable fear.”

Because of the potential wide-ranging circumstances, Long believes it would “be difficult to spell them all out,” thereby leaving it to the filing officer for determination.

“I think reasonableness is a standard that’s applied pretty widely in our courts and other systems. There is no standard, for example, right now with the police report, so any police report seems to qualify,” Long said.

“A law is only as good as the details that went into its creation, and I don’t hear that right now,” Nash countered. “… If this were to be put into action, it’s going to require a fair amount of meat on the bones in order to make sure it is enforceable.”

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