Senate passes bill to shield their addresses from public
SB 1061 now moves to arizona house
PHOENIX – Every single member of the Arizona Senate voted Tuesday for a measure that will shield their addresses and other personal information from the public as elected officials are increasingly subjected to threats and protests at their homes.
Several Republican senators described being targeted either by protesters or vandalism. That included Sen. J.D. Mesnard of Chandler, who said that he was woken up last year by a call from his neighbor, who said his home had been vandalized and the neighbor said “we think it was meant for you.’’
Mesnard told colleagues he went outside to find the neighbors home spray-painted with “really nasty words that were … I won’t repeat what they were, but they were really messed up. And among them was ‘JD is blah.’ ‘’
The measure adds members of Congress, the state Legislature and officials elected to statewide office to the address confidentiality program that already keeps the personal information of police officers, judges, prosecutors or former public officials secret. A separate confidentiality program that protects the addresses of domestic violence and sexual assault victims is overseen by the secretary of state’s office.
SB 1061 is sponsored by Republican Sen. T.J. Shope of Coolidge, who spoke about how he has been unnerved by protesters, including on opening day of this year’s legislative session in January, when within minutes of arriving at a newly elected lawmaker’s home he was surprised to see that he was tagged in a Tweet identifying him and the new lawmaker as being at that person’s house, with the address included.
“And as has been mentioned several times, we sign up for this stuff,’’ Shope said.
“But our families in many cases came later, or kids came later and things like that,’’ he continued. “So thank you all for working on this with me and we’ll continue to work on it as we move to the House.’’
Shope had promised to change the measure to address several flaws before the Senate vote. But that did not happen.
One big problem he acknowledged is that state lawmakers are required to live within their districts. And having their address publicly available is the only way that can be verified by both constituents and challengers.
When the measure was being weighed earlier by a committee, Shope had said he could handle that issue by requiring the secretary of state verify a candidate’s residency, something that is not currently required and is not in the version that was approved by the Senate.
He also said he was considering extending the protections to local elected officials.
Threats against public officials have happened with regularity in recent years, with noted examples being the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, where Republican board members faced protests outside their homes and threats of violence after the 2020 election that saw former President Donald Trump lose in Arizona.
Those changes, too, never were incorporated into the Senate-passed bill.
Finding the address of an official elected to state office is fairly easy, since it must be listed on forms they file when they decide to become a candidate.
Although Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs has not been asked if she backs the measure, protesters gathered often at her Phoenix-area home after the 2020 election she helped oversee as secretary of state. Troopers with the Department of Public Safety were assigned to ensure she and her family were safe.
The measure does more than shield a public official’s home address. Also hidden would be their home telephone number, personal photograph, directions to their home or photographs of their personal vehicle.
No Democrats spoke in support of the measure Tuesday, but all supported it and some spoke of their backing during the committee hearing.
GOP Sen. Justine Wadsack of Tucson said she wholeheartedly supported the measure and thanked Shope for proposing it. She said she’s been confronted at her home several times.
“I would really like to have the privacy so that I can fight with vigor and fight for the people that I represent, but not have to do so in fear,’’ Wadsack said.
The measure now moves to the House for consideration.